Did the successor agency to the KGB nip a terrorist plot in the bud, or is it a case of Russian exaggeration close to election time?
"Literally several days ago... a large terrorist attack was averted at the preparation stage in the Moscow area," Federal Security Service (FSB) director Alexander Bortnikov told President Dmitry Medvedev in televised comments. Bortnikov said four suspects from the North Caucasus had been identified in a plot on "crowded facilities and transport infrastructure."
Russian authorities have claimed to have foiled attacks by Islamic militants from the North Caucasus before — they said a September 2009 terrorist attack on Moscow was prevented when police discovered suicide bombers were going to use sneakers containing explosives as potential weapons, the Russian Kommersant daily reported.
Yet, the terrorist threat to Moscow has also proven very real. Insurgent leader Doku Umarov, Russia's most wanted man, claimed he was responsible for a suicide bombing at Moscow's busiest airport that killed 37 people and two bombings on Moscow's metro that killed 40 in March 2010, the BBC reported. Umarov later bragged via video that he had "hundreds of brothers ready" to commit like bombings.
Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (see Globalpost story: Jiggle your breasts for President Putin) have struggled to contain the mostly Chechen based insurgency, and possibly want to make a "statement" ahead of December parliamentary elections and a March presidential vote.
Bortnikov said 169 "terrorist crimes" had been recorded in Russia this year, according to the Kyiv Post, and 95 law enforcement officers were killed in the first six months of 2011.