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TERRORISM

ASSESSMENT
January 24, 2011
NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau
Terrorism Threat Analysis Group

Open Source Assessment

Bombing at Domodedovo Airport near Moscow


Information Cutoff: 12:00PM
Key Points
An explosion occurred at the Domodedovo Airport near Moscow, resulting in more than 30 deaths and 130
injuries.
Authorities believe that the explosion was a result of a suicide bombing; no group has yet claimed responsibility
for the attack.
Authorities have responded to the incident site and began an investigation into the attack, with special
emphasis on three suspects believed to be involved in its planning and execution.
Details of the Incident
On January 24th at 4:32PM local time, an explosion occurred at the
Domodedovo Airport approximately 25 miles southeast of Moscow
resulting in at least 31, and possibly as many as 35 deaths and 130 injuries.1
Reports suggest that the blast occurred near a caf outside of the international
arrivals section, destroying a baggage claim area.2 Initial media reports and
government statements indicate that the blast was likely the result of a suicide
bombing, and one unidentified law enforcement source said that the explosive
device contained the equivalent of at least 7 kilograms (approximately 15
Domodedovo Airport
Source: RIA Novosti/Anton Denisov
pounds) of TNT.3 Domodedovo Airport is Russias largest and busiest hub,
particularly for international travel, with more than 20 million passengers having travelled through there in 2010.4

Michael Schwirtz and J. David Goodman, Deadly Blast Strikes in Moscows Main Airport, New York Times, January 24, 2011; Lynn
Berry, Russia: Terror Attack Kills 35 at Moscow Airport, Associated Press, January 24, 2011; Douglas Stanglin, At Least 31 Killed in
Moscow Airport Explosion, USA Today, January 24, 2011.
2
Will Englund, Bomb Kills Passengers at Moscow Airport, Washington Post, January 24, 2011.
3
Douglas Stanglin, At Least 31 Killed in Moscow Airport Explosion, USA Today, January 24, 2011;Three Men Wanted Over
Moscow Airport Blast Source, Interfax, January 24, 2011.
4
Will Englund, Bomb Kills Passengers at Moscow Airport, Washington Post, January 24, 2011; Michael Schwirtz and J. David
Goodman, Deadly Blast Strikes in Moscows Main Airport, New York Times, January 24, 2011; Amie Ferris-Rotman, Suicide
Bomber Kills 31 at Russian Airport: Reports, Reuters, January 24, 2011.
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Background on the Current Situation


Although the Russian aviation industry has been targeted in the past, this
attack constitutes the first time that a bombing took place at an airport
facility.5 More than 20 emergency teams were quickly deployed to the
incident site and area hospitals put 170 spaces on hold to treat incoming
victims.6 Security has subsequently been tightened at Domodedovo
Airport to prevent additional attacks, which reportedly includes the use
of cell phone jamming devices to reduce the chance of secondary devices
Victim Evacuation
being detonated near the incident site.7 Russian officials have also
Source: AFP
decalred a high terror alert at the two other major airports in the
Moscow region and for the citys metro system. Moscow in general is also in a state of heightened alert, with police
patrols on the lookout for suspicious persons and objects in public places and at transport facilities.8
Media reports indicate that Russian authorities are currently searching for three suspects who might be connected to
the attack.9 These men have apparently been living in the Mosocw region for some time, and have subsequently been
placed on a police wanted list.10
Conclusions
Although a group has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus led by Doku
Umarov has launched terrorist attacks in the past including the March 29, 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and
threatened additional attacks in Russia going forward. Terrorists from the Caucasus have also targeted Russias aviation
industry, with the most notable incident being the August 24, 2004 simultaneous bombings of two planes in midflight
after they departed Domodedovo Airport. The attacks which were launched by two female suicide bombers killed 90
people.11
What is particularly notable about this attack for Western counterterrorism and security considerations is the target
itself: the relatively unsecured areas of a major airport. With many counterterorrism and security efforts focused on
protecting the aircraft, it is easy to forget that the pre-security screening areas of the airport also constitute high-crowd
targets that are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Indeed, such attacks have occurred in the past, including:
June 30, 2007: two jihadists attempted to ram a jeep that was set ablaze and loaded with gas canisters through
a terminal entrance at Glasgow Airport in Scotland. The attack failed and both men were taken into custody,
with one subsequently dying of severe burns.12

Will Englund, Bomb Kills Passengers at Moscow Airport, Washington Post, January 24, 2011.
Douglas Stanglin, At Least 31 Killed in Moscow Airport Explosion, USA Today, January 24, 2011.
7
Security Tightened at Domodedovo to Prevent New Blast Source, Interfax, January 24, 2011.
8
Will Englund, Bomb Kills Passengers at Moscow Airport, Washington Post, January 24, 2011; Security Tightened in Moscow
Source, Interfax, January 24, 2011.
9
Will Englund, Bomb Kills Passengers at Moscow Airport, Washington Post, January 24, 2011.
10
Three Men Wanted Over Moscow Airport Blast Source, Interfax, January 24, 2011.
11
Russia Plane Crashes Caused by Explosives, Associated Press, August 30, 2004.
12
Alistair Bell, Glasgow Airport Attack Linked To London Car Bombs, Reuters, June 30, 2007; Robert Barr, Airport Crash Doctor
Admitted Being A Terrorist, Associated Press, November 18, 2008.
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December 27, 1985: gunmen opened fire and threw grenades at crowds gathered near the ticket counters for El
Al Airlines and TWA at airports in Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria. The attacks killed 16 civilians and wounded
138 others.13
December 17, 1973: terrorists armed with grenades and assault rifles opened fire on civilians and security
guards in the terminal of Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome, Italy and then attacked passengers
aboard Pan Am Flight 110 before taking off with hostages on another plane. The attacks resulted in 32 deaths.14
Implications for New York City
Although they have some connections to transnational terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, insurgent
groups in the Caucasus are not known to operate outside Russia. It should be noted, however, that in late 2007
Umarov declared that the U.S., U.K. and Israel were all legitimate targets.15
o This statement, however, was likely nothing more than propaganda meant to draw international
attention to militant activities in the Caucasus.
The greatest threat that militant groups in the Caucasus pose to the U.S. would be providing Westerners with
training and combat experience, which they could use in future attacks against U.S. targets.
o In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Chechen conflict attracted Western fighters.
o If militant activities return to previous levels on a sustained basis, the Caucasus could once again
become a preferred destination for foreign fighters, including those from the West.
Asymmetric tactics employed abroad can be replicated elsewhere, including those against the aviation industry.
o As previously noted, the focus of this attack was not on aircraft, but on less secure locations inside the
airport.
o Similar tactics could be used against domestic airports, which also feature high-crowd locations that are
outside of the robust security perimeter leading to the gates.

For more information, please contact Intelligence Research Specialist Anthony Fratta of the NYPD
Counterterrorism Bureau at Anthony.Fratta@nypd.org or 646-805-6635.

13

Italy Indicts 3 For Airport Attack, Associated Press, March 12, 1987.
TERRORISM: Death in Rome Aboard Flight 110, Time, December 31, 1973.
15
Dokka Umarov Declares The Islamic Emirate Of The Caucasus, Expands Jihad, Europe News, November 4, 2007
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