Chechnya attacks carried out by children as young as 11, say officials

Islamic State blamed for targeting minors with online recruiting campaigns

A series of coordinated attacks in Chechnya this week were carried out by teenagers and children as young as 11, local officials have said, blaming a campaign of online recruiting by extremist groups.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for three separate attacks in the Russian republic on Monday.

The attacks, which included an attempted suicide bombing, a car ramming and a raid on a police station, left several police officers in the town of Shali with knife wounds. Four of the five attackers were killed, police said.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the regional leader installed by Vladimir Putin, said the young assailants had been “confused” by Isis recruiters using social media.

“The fact that they recruit mentally immature teenagers shows that the ‘masters’ don’t have even a trace of shame or conscience,” Kadyrov said in a post on the social media site Telegram. He suggested the attack was targeted before the Eid al-Adha Islamic holiday.

Chechnya’s minister of communications, Dzhambulat Umarov, told the Tass news agency the attackers ranged in age from 11 to 16. He said Isis was targeting teenagers and younger children in its recruitment campaigns.

All information on the attacks has come from Chechen officials and Russian law enforcement. One of the teenagers attempted a suicide bombing and was taken to hospital, said Alvi Karimov, an aide to Kadyrov. Two others attempted to detonate a gas canister in a car, then tried to ram the vehicle into a group of police officers.

“They drove around the city, failed to stop the car when ordered and were liquidated,” Karimov said.

Young people are sometimes arrested or killed on the suspicion of extremism in Chechnya, but it is very rare to see a group this young behind a series of attacks.

“This is a new phenomenon,” said Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, director at the Conflict Analysis and Prevention Centre. “This is the first time we have such a young group of people actually committing a series of attacks in Chechnya today.”

The group’s sources indicated Chechen authorities had been arresting and detaining younger and younger people on the suspicion of radicalism for several years, signifying a youthful support base for Islamic State in Chechnya.

“For Chechnya, this means we’re dealing with a new generation of jihadists,” she added, saying that young Chechens who grew up after the country’s wars were usually motivated by frustration with the current Kadyrov regime. “Some people get radicalised to the extent where they can really fall under the influence of the propaganda which is out there.”

The attacks took place in Shali as well as the capital, Grozny, and the town of Mesker-Yurt. All of the attackers were part of a single group from Shali, said Karimov.

The Kremlin turned to Kadyrov to keep Chechnya stable after fighting two wars and to subdue an insurgency that has been simmering in the republic since the 1990s. His security forces have been accused of human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings, during the crackdown.

Kadyrov has also sought to establish a role as a cultural leader, urging Chechens to follow a strict Islamic law that recognises the supremacy of the state. He has used television broadcasts to publicly berate and demand apologies from the families of those who have made complaints in public against his government.


Andrew Roth in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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