The suicide bomber being held responsible for the deadly attack in St. Petersburg, Russia, has been identified as a 22-year-old Muslim male from Kyrgyzstan, Russian authorities said on Tuesday. DNA evidence revealed the identity of Akbarjon Djalilov, who was a native of Kyrgyzstan. Other than the fact that he had become a citizen of Russia, authorities have released little information about the man’s background or motives.
The attack left 14 dead and dozens injured in what Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev described as a “terrorist act.” Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abyldaev, in a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at his side, confirmed that it was a suicide attack. “Regarding the link with Islamic radicalism, we have to wait to know more until the investigation yields its full results,” Abyldaev said. No Muslim group has claimed responsibility for the carnage.
According to various media accounts, Djalilov had been a Russian citizen since 2011. He also gave military service in Russia and worked in a sushi bar in St. Petersburg. Djalilov emigrated to Russia with his parents, who have since returned to Osh, a town in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Authorities in Kyrgzstan called in Djalilov’s parents for questioning. Expressing shock at their son’s involvement, they said he was a “not very religious” Muslim. However, Djalilov’s page on a Russian social media website, VKontakte, had links to a website featuring sayings from a 18th century imam whose teachings are the base for Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s hardline sect of Islam. No obvious links to extremist groups were said to be found.
Djalilov had a bomb in a backpack, which detonated on board the subway train he was riding. Another bomb, disguised within a fire extinguisher, was found on another car. The second bomb did not detonate, and was neutralized by experts.
Djalilov was from an ethnic Uzbek family. Ethnic Uzbeks have long faced discrimination in southern Kyrgyzstan and Osh was the scene of inter-ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010, in which hundreds of people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Djalilov was brought to St. Petersburg as a teenager by his father to earn money to help pay for a new house after their old neighborhood had been destroyed by the ethnic riots. Because he moved to Russia at such a young age, Dzhalilov had never been a Kyrgyz citizen, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Since the attack is the first to be carried out in Russia by a person from Central Asia, Djalilov’s attack may have policy implications for Moscow and the rest of Russia. In Russia, hundreds of thousands of Central Asians have come to work in construction and other menial jobs, sending money home. Kyrgyzstan is one of the countries most reliant on remittances in the whole world: one-third of the country’s GDP in 2015 came from remittances. Because of the devaluation of the ruble, the value of those remittance dropped by one-third in 2016.
Experts have noted that many Central Asians who have joined the Islamic State and other extremist groups were working in Russia when recruited for terrorism. Approximately, 2,000 recruits are said to be from the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Authorities in Moscow have arrested at least six individuals in connection to Monday's bombing. Extremist literature was reportedly found at their residences.
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