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Russian Islamist militant claims airport attack

The leader of Islamist militants in Russia’s North Caucasus on Tuesday claimed the attack at Moscow’s main airport that killed 36 people and issued a chilling warning of more suicide strikes to come.

Doku Umarov, the head of a Chechnya-based rebel group that aims to enforce Islamic rule across the Northern Caucasus, made the claim in a video that was posted two weeks after the suicide bombing at Moscow Domodedovo airport.

“This special operation was carried out on my orders,” said the bearded militant in a video posted on the Kavkaz Centre website which is the main channel for messages by North Caucasus rebels.

“God willing, these special operations will be carried out in the future,” said the leader of the Caucasus Emirate rebel group.

“There is no doubt of this, as we will have hundreds of brothers who will be ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of enforcing the word of Allah and to avenge the enemies of Allah,” he said.

The bearded Umarov, who Russian special forces have repeatedly tried and failed to kill over the last years, was shown wearing a black skullcap and khaki military fatigues, apparently speaking from inside a tent.

Umarov last year also claimed the suicide attacks on the Moscow metro in March carried out by female suicide bombers that killed 40 and wounded dozens during the morning rush hour.

He said the January 24 airport attack staged at the international arrivals hall was aimed at avenging Russia’s crimes in the North Caucasus region and warned Prime Minister Vladimir Putin future attacks could be even deadlier.

“I am showing the Putin regime one more time that we can carry out these operations wherever and whenever we want,” Umarov said. “This is proof again that we can carry out these operations and we can execute more aggressive operations against you.”

There had been confusion last year over Umarov’s role in the insurgency when the rebel — also known by his nom-de-guerre of Abu Usman — retracted an announcement that he was stepping down and vowed to carry on the insurgency.

But in a return to prominence as the Kremlin’s number one foe, Umarov had warned last week in a separate message released late last week that Russia this year would see a year of “blood and tears.”

“You had better come to your senses and think,” Umarov said, urging Russians to pressure their leaders into letting the region go. He said the attacks would stop after Russia withdrew from the region.

The Kremlin has repeatedly said giving up the Caucasus and negotiating with “terrorists” was not an option.

Russian security officials have said the Domodedovo airport bombing attack was carried out by a 20-year-old from one of the North Caucasus republics who was high on drugs.

A Russian security source had told Interfax news agency that the young man, Magomed Yevloyev, was the son of a school teacher and a bus driver and came from the restive Ingushetia region, bordering Chechnya.

The Kremlin fought two post-Soviet wars against separatist rebels in Chechnya but the insurgency has now become more Islamist in tone and has spread to neighbouring regions such as Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Umarov has evaded capture in the thickly forested valleys of the Caucasus mountains for almost two decades, although Russian authorities have several times prematurely announced his death.

He was known as an ally of notorious rebel chief Shamil Basayev, who claimed to have led dozens of bloody attacks, including the infamous 2004 Beslan school hostage siege that killed over 330 people, most of them children.

Umarov became head of the Chechen guerrilla movement in June 2006 after Basayev was killed by Russian forces a month earlier.