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ISIS-K attack in Moscow highlights growing terror threat from Afghanistan

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image of ISIS-K member in the street holding up a flag of ISIS

Fox News, March 2024

The terrorist attack on Moscow’s Crocus City concert hall was the worst attack in Russia in over 20 years, leaving 137 people dead and over 180 wounded, and reminds Russia and the West that the threat from ISIS and international terrorism hasn’t gone away. Gunmen, identified by Russian media as Tajik nationals, entered the concert hall with automatic weapons and indiscriminately opened fire in the 6,200-seat venue. The Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), claimed responsibility for the brutal attack on concertgoers. 

While the ISIS caliphate that spanned across Iraq and Syria was largely defeated by the U.S. and its mostly Kurdish ally there, the Afghan chapter of ISIS has been one of the most active post-caliphate branches. It was responsible for the suicide attack on Kabul airport in August 2021 that killed 13 American service members amid the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The world’s attention has once again returned to Afghanistan over two years since the Taliban regained control after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021.

“It seems that ISIS-K has exploited the American withdrawal and has successfully tapped into recruits, especially from Afghanistan and Central Asia,” Max Abrahms, terrorism expert and professor of political science at Northeastern University, told Fox News Digital. The deadly attack in Moscow comes after ISIS claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in January that killed at least 95 people commemorating the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Qud’s Forces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020.

It’s also no surprise that ISIS-K would target Russia, according to Ivana Stradner, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who focuses on Russian information security. Stradner told Fox News Digital that Russian actions in Syria and Moscow’s ties to Iran also play an important role in ISIS’ decision to challenge the Kremlin. Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015 to prop up the Assad regime, at the time on the verge of collapse. Moscow’s treatment of Muslim minorities in Russia and the brutal wars against Chechnya are also long-standing grievances. 

ISIS-K was formed in 2015 and operates primarily in Afghanistan but has expanded across the world, including in Russia’s backyard of Central Asia. It may share a similar ideology with the Taliban, but remains a grave danger to their rule as it looks to undermine the regime and strike at foreign interests in Afghanistan.

Read more at Fox News.

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