What is IS-K and why would it target Russia?

World

Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) has taken credit for attacks by other terror networks in the past, but it is almost certainly behind the deadly assault in Russia, though nothing is impossible.

The group has claimed responsibility, and the chatter picked up by Western intelligence services in the days leading up to the atrocity also indicated something was coming.

The number of people killed in Friday’s shooting near Moscow is grim and likely to keep climbing.

Many people presumed Islamic State (IS) had been neutered, but it has been growing in strength in recent years, particularly IS-K.

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Khorasan is an ancient term referring to regions of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

FILE - In this June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group, slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo, File)
Image:
Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group’s flags in Mosul. File pic: AP

IS-K’s members are primarily disaffected fighters from the Pakistani Taliban, but the group also draws its numbers from other areas.

Central Asia is a fertile recruiting ground, as are the restive republics of the Russian Federation, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya.

As IS was gathering strength in Iraq and Syria, IS-K was emerging in eastern Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and into 2015.

US operations seriously reduced its numbers, but after the withdrawal in 2021 the group renewed and grew.


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The Taliban is now regularly engaged in combat against IS-K, as it threatens its ability to govern Afghanistan.

But unlike other terror groups, IS has transnational ambitions.

Counter-terror officials have foiled numerous attacks in Europe in recent years.

Russia is of particular interest to the group and would have been targeted because it claims President Vladimir Putin and his regime are killing Muslims.

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Members of IS-K point to Russia’s military operations in Chechnya, Syria and Afghanistan.

Russia has been targeted by Islamist groups numerous times over the last two decades.

The Nord Ost theatre siege in 2002 and the Beslan massacre in 2004 are the most notorious attacks.

The group will also want to sow chaos in Russia at a time when it is fighting a war in Ukraine.

Like all terror groups, its grand design is to push people to extremes and to try to elicit an overreaction and overreach.

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