On December 27, 2017, a bomb exploded in a supermarket in the Russian city of St. Petersburg injuring ten people and raising concerns over terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation where the next summer will be organised the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Russian authorities stated that the bomb was a ‘homemade explosive device‘ with the strength of about half a pound of TNT. It detonated in a locker at a Perekryostok supermarket in the north-east of St. Petersburg.
Local witnesses reported that the bomb destroyed the door of the supermarket and left a hole in the wall. Ten people were hospitalised, including one in critical condition.
In the beginning, the authorities claimed that the bomb was an attempt of murder. Later the Russian President Vladimir Putin during his meeting with the officers who participated in the military operation in Syria stated that the explosion occurred in St. Petersburg was a terrorist attack.
Ten days ago Putin publicly thanked the US President Donald Trump and the CIA Director Mike Pompeo for a tip which helped the Russian authorities to prevent a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg at the Kazan Cathedral in the city centre.
St. Petersburg is the second largest city in the Russian Federation, a cultural centre and the ‘Russian window” to Europe. In April 2017 an explosion targeted the metro between Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologichesky Institut stations killing 16 people, including the perpetrator, a Russian citizen from Uzbekistan.
In October 2017 the Islamic State has threatened the Russian Federation with explosions during the 2018 FIFA World Cup publishing banner in English and Russian languages. In June-July 2018 Russia will host this international event organising football matches in 11 cities and attracting millions of visitors and supporters from all over the world.
The Islamic State’s threats in the Russian language related to the World Cup correlate with what happened before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Indeed, in 2013 Doku Umarov, leader of Imarat Kavkaz, (a terrorist organisation founded in 2007 which aims at creating an emirate in the North Caucasus) threatened the Russian government calling a jihad against the Olympic Games. As a consequence of this ‘declaration of war’, explosions occurred in Volgograd at the end of 2013 alarming the international public opinion about the security in Russia.
Even nowadays there are general concerns about the security in Russia because the Islamic State and other terrorist organisations have proved their ability to conduct attacks on the Russian soil. During this summer Furat Media, the Russian-language Islamic State’s media channel, released a two-part video titled Convoy of the Martyrs where one of the fighters of the Islamic State Abu Abdul Aziz al-Shishani (the Chechen) threatened the Russian Federation with a new wave of jihad in the North Caucasus (watch second part of the video below)
In conclusion, it is possible to state that although the Islamic State has lost a significant portion of the caliphate’s territory and its main strongholds (Raqqa and Mosul), it still represents a threat for the international security because of its propaganda. Actually, since the caliphate’s decline, the Islamic State has changed its strategic communication focusing its attention on ‘the war against the enemies’ urging its supporters to organise terrorist attacks on the European and Russian soils.
Giuliano Bifolchi. Director of ASRIE OSINT Unit, he has worked for several years as a journalist and Open Source Intelligence analyst specialised in the field of international relations, terrorism and security in the Middle East and the post-Soviet space. He holds a master’s degree in Peacebuilding Management and International Relations from Pontifical University San Bonaventura and a B.A. in History from the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Currently, he is a PhD student at University of Rome Tor Vergata with particular interests in geopolitics, history of Islamic countries, strategic communication, conflict management and ethnic minorities.