In the wake of an explosion in Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport yesterday that killed an estimated 35 people and injured 180 others, some Russian students and experts at Harvard recalled the ongoing violence that has plagued Russia.
Investigators believe a male suicide bomber triggered the explosion in the airport’s waiting area outside security, according to The New York Times.
There was no indication of who was behind the attack, but Russian President Dmitry A. Medvedev announced that there will be a full investigation into what he declared a terrorist act.
Previous attacks have been attributed to insurgency groups in the North Caucasus, a predominantly Muslim region of southern Russia, said Carol R. Saivetz, an associate at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and a center associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
“It’s a shock,” said Dunja Popovic, a center associate at the Davis Center, who said he learned of the attacks before teaching a class. “I couldn’t get it out from my head even when I was in the classroom because it’s so horrible and senseless.”
But Svetlana I. Dotsenko ’11, who lived in Russia before coming to Harvard, recalled a period of what she described as frequent attacks when she was in high school.
There were explosions on a monthly basis, she said. In 2004, she remembered, two Chechen suicide bombers triggered explosions aboard two separate planes leaving the Domodedovo Airport, killing around 90 people.
But Dotsenko said the frequency of attacks had decreased over the past five years.
“Everyone’s scared because it seems to be coming back in frequency,” Dotsenko said.
“Now it’s a little better, but there’s no predictability,” Dotsenko added.
She said yesterday’s attack still came as a shock. “I was scared,” she said. “But I called my friends in Russia, and no one was surprised. Everyone’s like ‘Oh yeah, another bomb.’”
Flights were temporarily delayed from landing due to the incident, but the airport remained open, according to The New York Times.
“Immediately we’re all going to be asking if it’s going to result in further restriction in travel,” said Tad J. Oelstrom, an adjunct lecturer in public policy and director of the National Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, who said he believes the attacks are localized within Russia.
“There are no indications that this is an international terrorist act,” Oelstrom said.
While Medvedev demanded tighter security, Oelstrom said that officials must go beyond preventative measures.
“Every time we hear one of these, we need to step back and see how we would react,” he said.
“It’s deeper than preventive measures at the airport. It is understanding the people and their needs,” Oelstrom said.
—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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