ENGRUS

Russia: Another Central Asian Arrested Over Metro Blast

Security services in Russia have detained another native of Kyrgyzstan in connection with the bombing of the St. Petersburg metro train that claimed 15 lives.

Russian news outlets have cited officials as saying Arbor Azimov is suspected of being one of the masterminds behind the April 3 attack. A representative of the Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, has said that Azimov’s suspected role in the bombing is not yet clear, however.

A video posted online on April 17 shows a squad of Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, officers pouncing on Azimov near a railway underpass in the Odintsovo district outside Moscow and then carting him away in handcuffs. In the video, Azimov is seen to have a Makarov handgun tucked into the back of his jeans.

A few details have already emerged about Azimov’s background. He is an ethnic Uzbek born in 1990 in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, but moved to Russia some years ago and renounced his Kyrgyz citizenship. Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev’s office issued a statement on April 18 to say that Azimov’s Kyrgyz citizenship was revoked in 2013.

In 2016, Azimov reportedly flew twice to Turkey on a Russian passport — once in March, when he spent three days in Istanbul, and again in October. St. Petersburg-based news website fontanka.ru said that on the second trip, Azimov returned to Russia via the South Korean capital, Seoul, from where he traveled to the Pacific coast city of Vladivostok. 

The suspected perpetrator of the bombing, Akbarjon Djalilov, also spent time in Turkey. According to reports, he went to Turkey at the end of 2015 and was deported to Russia a year later for violating migration laws. Djalilov too was originally from Kyrgyzstan, from the southern city of Osh, and had acquired Russian citizenship.

Djalilov was one of the 15 people killed in the April 3 blast. The attack has been widely described as a suicide bombing, although the intent of the perpetrator is not yet certain.

Kommersant newspaper cited sources as saying investigators zeroed in on Azimov as he was shown from telephone records to have been in contact with Djalilov immediately prior to the attack. The newspaper reported that following the St. Petersburg bombing, Azimov disappeared from his rented apartment and discarded all telephones. The FSB footage of the arrest shows Azimov with a carrier bag containing mobile telephones, suggesting he may have bought replacements.

Two other previously arrested accomplices Sadyk Ortikov, a 39-year old citizen of Tajikistan, and 46-year old Shohista Karimova, from Uzbekistan, are said to have worked with Azimov in a cafe in the Odintsovo district. They have been charged with terrorism offenses. Both deny the accusations.

While Russian investigators broaden their list of suspects, there is still no convincing theory as to the motivation for the attack. No organizations have claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Suspicions continue to linger over a radical Islamic link, although even Russian state media have pointed out that Djalilov showed no obvious signs of being a religious fanatic.