TERRORISMThe Islamic State and Russia

By Jason Wahlang

Published 1 June 2024

vThe March 2024 terrorist attack by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Moscow Oblast brings to attention the Islamic State’s long-standing animosity towards the Russian state. The group also seeks to destabilize the relationship between Russia and Central Asia. Russia can be expected to deal with the ISKP threat more aggressively, including tighter border controls. The Islamic State Vilayat Caucasus, founded in 2015, also exists which operates in the historically conflict-prone Northern Caucasus region.

On 22 March 2024, a major terrorist attack took place in the Crocus City Hall, Krasnogorsk, in the Moscow Oblast, in which 137 people were killed and 180 were injured. This major terrorist attack on Russian soil occurred 20 years after the Beslan school tragedy, when 330 lives were lost in the attack executed by the Chechen secessionist forces. Four Tajiks militants were arrested and 12 people were detained in connection with the Moscow attack. There were many speculations over who was responsible for the attack. The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), however, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The ISKP is a regional Islamic State chapter focusing on the South Asia and Eurasia regions, including Russia. ISKP has been known to accommodate Central Asian fighters from bordering Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It has been known to commit attacks in Central Asia, including cross-border attacks into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On 18 April 2022, for instance, it launched ten rockets into Uzbekistan from the Balkh province of Afghanistan and on 7 May 2022, seven rockets were launched into Tajikistan from the Khawaja Ghar district. Its focus is not limited to the Central Asian territories though, with the group being known to be critical of Russia and China, especially their involvement in Afghanistan.

Islamic State and Russia
The Islamic State is a Salafi Jihadist terror group that primarily operates in Syria and Iraq. Its primary objective is the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate globally. Since its inception, the Islamic State has kept Russia as one of the main targets.1 The terror group has inherited its animosity towards the Russians from its predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), whose founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was a mujahedeen fighting in the Soviet–Afghan war.2 The AQI in the past has been responsible for the killing and abduction of Russian Embassy employees in Iraq in 2006.3