An Overview of IS-Claimed Attacks in Russia

Since September 2015, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for 26 attacks in Russia. As much as these attacks illustrate the serious threat IS activity poses to Russia, they also highlight important limitations.

The majority of attacks have been carried out in the North Caucasus and, in the case of Dagestan in particular, are difficult to separate from the sporadic insurgent violence Russia already faced by the region. The bulk of the insurgency defected to the Islamic State between late 2014 and mid-2015, and the North Caucasus is now a recognised province of the “caliphate” itself. At the same time, the insurgent leadership has been decimated and the insurgency’s capacity as an organised force is extremely limited.

Many IS-claimed attacks, both in the North Caucasus and beyond, have been rudimentary, in several cases involving attacks with knives and other weapons on police in order to obtain their weapons. None of the attacks to date appear to have involved “returnees” from the conflict in Syria and Iraq; instead, the perpetrators all appear to have been domestic recruits.

Furthermore, several attacks illustrate the importance of critically evaluating IS claims and not taking them at face value: the September 2015 attack likely did not happen; the November 2016 arson attack wasn’t initially regarded even as a suspicious incident; and Russian nationalists rather than IS may have been behind the April 2017 attack in Khabarovsk. In other cases, attribution changed over time or IS statements didn’t contain any information that indicated advanced knowledge of the attack – or contradicted known information.

For a more detailed discussion of the threat posed by IS and other insurgent groups to Russia, see my report, co-authored with Dr Cerwyn Moore for the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats, “‘Russian-Speaking’ Fighters in Syria, Iraq and at Home: Consequences and Context.”

2015 

2 September Dagestan IS claimed responsibility for an attack on a barracks in Magaramkent. However, local media denied both the occurrence of the attack and the existence of the supposed barracks.
30 December Dagestan At least three people attacked visitors to the Naryn-Kala fortress in Derbent, injuring 11 and killing one. IS said it was targeting military personnel.

2016

15 February Dagestan Police vehicle attacked in Dzhemikent, resulting in three dead and 18 injured.
29 March Dagestan Attack on federal security services on Kavkaz federal highway near Uytash airport and Novyy Khushet. One killed, two injured.
30 March Dagestan Police vehicle attacked near Sirtich, resulting in three dead and one injured.
14 May Dagestan Shootout during search operation in Derbent. Four alleged rebels and two members of the security services were killed and 11 security service personnel injured.
17 August Moscow Oblast Two Chechen men attacked and wounded traffic policemen with an axe in Balashika. The axe was purchased 20 minutes before and the attackers reportedly wanted to seize police weapons.
15 November Moscow Oblast A fire broke out at a furniture factory in Losino-Petrovskiy. IS claimed the attack in the December issue of Al-Naba magazine, saying that an IS supporter had perpetrated it to financially weaken the group’s opponents.
17-18 December Chechnya The exact details of the incident were disputed, but it appears that unknown people started visiting the homes of security service personnel in Groznyy in order to gain entry to their houses and acquire their weapons. A counterterrorism operation was declared in the city, and a separate operation conducted in the Andreyevskaya valley. Casualty figures were contradictory and there were allegations that some of the attackers were extra-judicially killed.
24 December Dagestan Attack on police in Makhachkala.
24 December Dagestan Attack on police in Kizilyurt. Across the two attacks on the same day, two people reportedly killed and one injured.

2017

23 March Chechnya Eight people attacked a Rosgvardiya unit in Naurskiy Rayon, killing six and injuring several more. Several key details of the attack were disputed and again there were allegations of extrajudicial killings.
4-6 April Astrakhan Oblast Two traffic policemen were killed in Astrakhan when a group attacked their car, reportedly with the intention of acquiring their weapons. The four alleged attackers were killed in a special operation in the city on 6 April.
21 April Khabarovsk Kray Up to ten people raided a shooting club in Khabarovsk, killing two. The weapons were then used in attack on an FSB office in the city, in which an FSB employee and a civilian were killed and another civilian injured. Although IS claimed the attack, credible reporting identified nationalists as the likely perpetrators.
12 May Ingushetia Two men attacked a police post in Malgobekskiy Rayon, injuring one.
19 August Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug A Dagestani native attacked people with a knife, injuring several. Initial reporting attributed responsibility elsewhere, and investigators denied it was a terrorist attack.
28 August Dagestan Two men armed with knives attacked police in Kaspiysk, killing one and injuring another. Investigators claimed the attackers were motivated by personal animosity and a desire to seize police weapons.
30 September Dagestan A policeman’s body was found in a burnt-out car in Kizlyarskiy Rayon. He was reportedly attacked by two people.
1 October Dagestan Three men, including two reportedly responsible for the 30 September attack, shot a policeman at his house in Babayurtovskiy Rayon.
27 December St Petersburg An IED exploded at a supermarket. Police initially classified the attack as attempted murder, but President Putin labelled it a terrorist attack. The attacker was reportedly a member of a New Age paranormalist sect and had previously received psychiatric treatment.

2018

18 February Dagestan Five people were killed and four injured when a man opened fire on Christian Maslenitsa celebrations in Kizlyar, Dagestan.
20 March Chechnya An unidentified assailant opened fire on police in Groznyy, wounding one.
1 May Stavropol Kray A man attacked and wounded two policemen with a knife before himself being killed in Neftekumsk. The attacker was identified as someone previously convicted for trying to join IS.
4 May Nizhniy Novgorod A man attacked and wounded three policemen, presumably using a firearm. He then barricaded himself in an apartment and opened fire on police, before reportedly killing himself.
9 May Dagestan A man detonated an explosive device at the grave of Said Afandi Chirkeyskiy.
19 May Chechnya A group of four rebels from Ingushetia’s Malgobekskiy Jama’at attacked a church in Groznyy with knives, axes, and a sawn-off shotgun. Two security service personnel, one civilian, and the four attackers were killed, and one civilian was injured.
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