Kyrgyz-born suspect in St Petersburg bombing 'had links to radical Islamists'

A still image allegedly showing bombing suspect Akbarzhon Jalilov walking at St Petersburg's metro station on April 3, 2017.
A still image allegedly showing bombing suspect Akbarzhon Jalilov walking at St Petersburg's metro station on April 3, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BISHKEK/ST PETERSBURG (REUTERS) - The main suspect in a blast in a St Petersburg train carriage is a 22-year-old Russian citizen originally from mainly-Muslim Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Kyrgyz authorities said on Tuesday (April 4).

Russia's Investigative Committee and the Kyrgyz GKNB security service identified the man as Akbarjon Djalilov (also spelled as Akbarzhon Jalilov), who was born in the Kyrgyz city of Osh in 1995.

State investigative authorities said fragments of the body of the suspect had been found among the dead, indicating that he was a suicide bomber.

Russian media cited law enforcement officials as saying that the perpetrator had radical Islamist links, raising the possibility the attack could have been inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has not struck a major city in Russia before.

Russia has been on alert against attacks in reprisal for its military intervention in Syria, where Moscow's forces have been supporting troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad against Western-backed armed groups as well as the hardline ISIS which grew out of the conflict.

ISIS, now under attack by all sides in Syria's multi-faceted war, has repeatedly threatened revenge and been linked to recent bombings elsewhere in Europe.

If it is confirmed that the metro bomber was linked to radical Islamists, it could provoke anger among some Russians at Moscow's decision to intervene in Syria, a year before an election which President Vladimir Putin is expected to win.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was cynical to say the bombing in St Petersburg was revenge for Russia's role in Syria. He said the attack showed that Moscow needed to press on with its fight against global terrorism.

WHAT NEIGHBOURS SAY

A page on social media site VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, belonging to someone with the same name and year of birth as Djalilov, included photos of him relaxing with friends in a bar, smoking from a hookah pipe. He was dressed in jackets and a baseball cap, and showed no outward sign of any religious affiliation.

A Reuters reporter visited a house in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan, which neighbours said was the family home of Djalilov. The home, a modest but well-maintained one-storey brick building, was empty.

Neighbours said Djalilov was from a family of ethnic Uzbeks, and that while they knew his parents they had not seen the young man for years. They said his father worked as a panel-beater in a car repair shop.

Osh is part of the Fergana Valley, a fertile strip of land that straddles Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan which is mainly populated by ethnic Uzbeks. It has a tradition of Islamist radicalism and hundreds of people have set out from the area to join ISIS.

A blast at a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year's Eve that killed 39 people involved a suspect from the same part of central Asia. The bomber in that attack said he had been acting under the direction of ISIS militants in Syria.

Two acquaintances of Djalilov's, contacted by Reuters via social media, said he moved to St Petersburg several years ago.

One of the acquaintances said he had worked with Djalilov in a chain of sushi restaurants in the city between late 2012 and late 2013. The second said he had seen Djalilov in the crowd at sambo matches in St Petersburg.

 

Related Stories: 

Djalilov has been registered at an apartment in the north of St Petersburg since 2011, according to a source in the Russian authorities, and he has a Daewoo Nexia car registered in his name.

The apartment is in a brand new 16-storey building with its own security guards and a gated garden, and jewelry shops, a wine store and a bank on the ground floor.

The head of the local apartment-owners cooperative, Lyudmila Morozova, told Reuters the owner of the apartment was renting it out to tenants, but she said she did not know if Djalilov was one of the tenants. She said that state investigators had visited the apartment on Monday evening.