With many people making comparisons between today’s deadly terrorist attack in St. Petersburg and recent attacks in Europe, the reality is rather different.
Beginning in 2014, there have been seven car or truck ramming attacks in western and central Europe which have generally been perpetrated by so-called ‘lone wolf’ attackers behind the wheel of a large and consequently deadly vehicle.
Today’s attack in Russia is reminiscent of the attacks on trains that plagued much of the world, including Russia, in the first decade of the 21st century.
Here is a list of similar attacks.
1. February, 2004: Moscow, Russia.
A single suicide bomber killed 41 people on a train near Avtozavodskaya station.
The terrorist was later found to have been a cohort of Ukrainian Islamist radical Nikolai Kipkeyevl.
Two other individuals were later arrested and given life sentences for their role in organising the terrorist attack.
2. April, 2004: Madrid, Spain.
Bombs exploded at four rail terminals in Madrid. The devices were latter determined to be time-detonated bombs.
The attacks were first blamed on the Basque group ETA, but later al-Qaeda emerged as the responsible group in question.
Four individuals suspected of planning and executing the attack committed suicide just under a month after the bombings.
3. July, 2005: London, England.
Four men detonate home-made bombs on three Underground trains as well as one bus, in a four-pronged suicide attack.
Three of the bombers were born in Britain and the other was born in Jamaica but raised in England.
A video made by the terrorists prior to the attack professed their loyalty to al-Qaeda.
4. March, 2010: Moscow, Russia.
Two female suicide attackers detonate bombs in the Park Kultury and Lubyanka metro stations.
40 people were killed in the attacks.
The bombers were natives of Dagestan with loyalties to al-Qaeda.
5. December, 2013: Volgograd, Russia
Two suicide bombings 24 hours apart, one at the Volgograd-1 Train Station and another on a local trolleybus.
85 people were killed.
The al-Qaeda affiliate Caucasus Emirate claimed responsibility.
What does this all mean?
In each of the aforementioned attacks, the explosive attacks were works of more than one person either at the planning, organisation or attack stage.
By contrast, the attacks on major European cities in the last four years, have been the work of single ‘lone-wolf’ attackers whose affiliation to terrorist groups like ISIS is something of an inspirational link, rather than a more formal loyalty.
It is still unclear whether today’s attack was carried out by one or several terrorists. It is almost certain that the bombs were home-made devices.
The safe defusing of a shrapnel filled bomb at another Metro station may indicate that the devices were planted rather than attached to a suicide bomber. It also may indicate that more than one individual was behind the atrocity.
The level of organisation involved, suggests an act of contrived militancy rather than lone lunacy. Although the results of all terrorist attacks are equally tragic, the reality of this attack may prolong the investigation into determining just who was behind today’s tragedy.
As Tolstoy said,
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.
So too might it be with all victims of tragic terrorist attacks.