April 3, 2017: Guns Don’t Kill People, Bombs Kill People! (St. Petersburg Metro bombing)

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A Brief History

On April 3, 2017, an alleged Uzbek/Russian terrorist set off a suicide bomb on a Russian rapid transit train (called the Metro), killing himself and about 15 other people, as well as injuring another 4 dozen or so.  Luckily, a second bomb failed to detonate and was later defused by police bomb technicians.  Once again, a deranged, homicidal person proved that such people do not need guns to commit mass murder.

Digging Deeper

The suspected terrorist, Akbarzhon Jalilov, was born in Kyrgystan and was of Uzbek ethnic nationality.  He was reportedly upset with the Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War, with the Russians siding with the Syrian Government against the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS.  Apparently Jailov was an Islamic extremist in line with ISIS.  In 2016, Russian police had arrested terrorists that had been plotting just such an attack on Russian subway and mass transit systems, also for the purpose of supporting ISIS (also known as ISIL) and opposing Russian support of the Syrian Government.  Russia had been untouched by mass transit terror attacks since the Moscow Metro bombing of 2010, but not because terrorists were not trying.  Jailov was carrying his bomb personally, inside a briefcase.  Russian law enforcement arrested Abror Azimov (age 27) about 2 weeks after the attack and charged him with being the mastermind of the bombing, including training the bomber.

Location of the two stations and the tunnel in the Saint Petersburg Metro where the explosion occurred.  Map by AlexTref871Sameboatchabacano, and Fabián Alexis.

Before the St. Petersburg Metro bombing, ISIS has been inciting violence against the Russian Government and dictator Vladimir Putin, including placing posters and handbills around cities with pictures of Putin with bullet holes in his head.  A poster promulgated by ISIS supporters showed the Kremlin crumbling apart, with the caption, “We Will Burn Russia.”  Russia is no longer the Soviet Union with its many different republics (SSR’s), but it is the largest country in the world and encompasses an enormous ethnic, national and religious diversity in its population.  Only about 81% of Russian citizens are ethnic Russians, and these Russians are joined by an estimated 160 other ethnic/national groups!  A stunning 100 different languages are spoken in Russia, although Russian is the official language.  Russia is a nominally Eastern Orthodox Christian country, with 71% of Russians claiming to be of that faith.  Russia also has a sizable atheist or no professed religion population of about 15% and more significantly, about 10% of the Russian population is of the Muslim faith.  Islamic nationalists that want independence for Islamic majority regions (such as Chechnya and Dagestan) and those aligned with Islamic extremist terrorist movements represent a grave domestic terror threat to Russia.

After the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing in the United States in 2013, it was revealed that Russian law enforcement/intelligence agencies had warned American authorities about the danger posed by the Tsarnaev brothers, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Although living in the United States, the Tsarnaev brothers were the children of Muslim Russians that had been forcibly moved around Russia during the Soviet era, including from Chechnya to Kyrgystan, and the family also moved to Dagestan.  In 2007 the Tsarnaev applied for and was granted permanent residence in the United States.  The bombs built and set off by the Tsarnaev brothers only killed 3 people but caused horrible amputations (at least 16) and injuries to another several hundred.

Security camera images of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (front) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev just prior to the bombings

Obviously, bombs are proof that getting rid of guns will not get rid of mass murders.  The worst school mass murder in American history was done by a man bombing a school, not shooting people, and of course the Oklahoma City bombing of the Federal building is one of our darkest days.  Mass murderers have used other methods of killing, such as poison and poison gas, fire, and vehicular assault as well as guns.  Obviously banning guns or certain types of guns will not stop people from committing horrible crimes, just as banning cars and matches would not make us somehow better off.  The real problem is people!  Identifying those people in need of mental health care and those that represent a danger to the public is the first step, and then getting those people the help they need is the next step.  For those people that present a danger to the rest of us that are not candidates for mental health intervention, they must be disarmed and/or somehow made harmless to protect the rest of us.

People control is much harder than gun control to be sure.  A careful balance of individual rights and public safety is not easy to achieve.  Still, it is our contention that scrutiny of social media to identify people that may become a threat to others and some sort of intervention program is needed.  Perhaps some sort of reporting procedure available to the public to report other people that seem to present a threat (how many times have we heard outlandish things about someone that ended up committing murders, but nobody did anything?) with the government tasked with evaluating the potential threat.  Of course, safeguards to prevent abuse of such reporting from turning into a malicious form of messing with someone must be in place.  Like we said, it will not be easy to strike the perfect balance, but the effort should be made.  What do you think?

After the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018 resulted in seventeen deaths and seventeen injuries, survivors of the shooting led a movement against gun violence, leading to the March for Our Lives the following month.  Photograph  by Ryan1783.

Questions for Students (and others):  What major bombing terrorist attacks can you think of?  (On US soil and abroad.)  Do you know who George Metesky and Ted Kaczynski are?  What can we do to protect ourselves against domestic terrorists and mass murderers?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Anemone, Anthony. Just Assassins: The Culture of Terrorism in Russia. Northwestern University Press, 2010.

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Gage, Beverley. The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror. Oxford University Press. 2009.

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Meyers, Jeff. The Criminal–Terror Nexus in Chechnya: A Historical, Social, and Religious Analysis. Lexington Books, 2017.

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Murphy, Paul. The Wolves of Islam: Russia and the Faces of Chechen Terror. Potomac Books Inc., 2004.

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Wright, Stuart. Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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The featured image in this article, a photograph by Ремеш of a memorial of flowers at the metro station Tekhnologichesky Institut after a terrorist attack, is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.