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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Was It a Suicide Bombing?

The terrorist attack at a rock concert in Tushino last Saturday that killed 16 people, including two female bombers, was immediately claimed by the authorities to be the work of Chechen rebels. Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced that this was a rebel response to a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin a day before setting presidential elections in Chechnya for Oct. 5.

But are the authorities jumping to conclusions? The radical Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev has indeed recently organized a series of suicide attacks and claimed responsibility for them. But the timing and the target of the one in Tushino do not match the pattern.

There has been no claim of responsibility and the only hard evidence connecting the crime with Chechnya is an internal Russian passport of a 20-year-old Chechen woman, Zalikhan Elikhadzhiyeva, found on the spot.

The assumption of a direct connection with Putin's decree on elections is highly improbable. Terrorist attacks are prepared for weeks or months and sometimes years in advance.

Who outside of the Kremlin could have known that Putin would sign the decree the night before the rock concert and then planned the attack? The security services could have, at least in theory, but the Chechens -- hardly.

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Here is a list of confirmed Chechen suicide bombings: a truck bombing in December that flattened the main government building in Grozny; a truck bombing of an administrative compound in Nadterechnoye in May; an attack two days later in May by two women suicide bombers at a religious ceremony, apparently aimed at Moscow-appointed Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov (several of his bodyguards were killed); a truck bombing in Grozny that destroyed an intelligence office of the FSB and a local government building in June.

Also last month, a Chechen woman suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying air force personnel from the 4th Air Army near Mozdok in North Ossetia. The 4th Air Army has been bombing Chechnya regularly since 1999.

More than 200 people were killed and many more injured in these attacks, many of them civilians. But the main target was always military or government connected.

During the siege of the theater on Dubrovka last October in Moscow, armed Chechen rebels took hundreds of civilian hostages. Almost 130 hostages perished as a result of that attack, but not a single one was killed directly by the rebels. The special forces poisoned them during a botched gas attack.

The Tushino bombing was a direct and deliberate attack against civilians who had no connection at all with the conduct of the war in Chechnya. This attack goes against the rebel propaganda argument that they have a fight with the Russian authorities, not the Russian people. Attacking Russians only because they are Russians is unusual.

Unlike the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, or the conflict in Northern Ireland, or the strife in former Yugoslavia, the Russian-Chechen fray has not up to now been a community clash. There are clear tensions between Russians and people from the Caucasus region, but the Chechens were never actually singled out.

Maybe this was indeed a deliberate attack on a rock concert? There are Muslim radicals as well as Russian Orthodox Christian fundamentalists who believe that rock music and rock concerts are Satanist, imposed by America.

As a result of the Tushino bombing, another rock festival planned for this summer -- Nashestviye -- has been called off by City Hall. (The Moscow authorities also do not like rock concerts.)

The Tushino bombing seems to parallel the wave of apartment block bombings in Moscow almost four years ago, also in a run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia as today. Those indiscriminate attacks left more than 300 dead and at the same time propelled the previously unknown Putin into the Kremlin on a wave of resurgent Russian nationalism and promises to "wipe out" the Chechen rebels.

But the Chechen connection to the bombings was never fully substantiated. Evidence also surfaced that apparently involved the security services in the apartment bombing campaign of 1999.

This week Putin has again pledged to "pick out and destroy" rebel leaders. At the same time, some police sources have told the press that the Tushino bombs had radio fuses and were remote-controlled. If that is true, it was not "suicide" at all -- it was an attack controlled from far-off by someone unknown.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.