Forty-eight hours after two Russian Tupolev airliners took off from Moscow airport minutes apart and crashed, killing all 89 people aboard, al Qaeda has finally come forward with a claim of responsibility, published by the Islamic Minbar website associated with the Islamist organization. The statement, signed by the “Islambuli Brigades” (named for the killer of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat) claims two groups of five men each hijacked the planes and promises to circulate soon a video clip showing the “martyrs” reading out their last wills and testaments. The statement adds that the attacks were the first in a series and there are more operations to come.
Russian investigators have not yet established whether or not the crashes were caused by terrorists – or else they are not saying. Some quote a denial by Chechen rebels. However the denial was oddly precise: “Achmad Zakayev has already said that Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov had nothing to do with the terrorist attack.”
No mention of al Qaeda in the denial.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources are certain that the Russian airliners were hijacked and crashed by an al Qaeda team from outside Russia. This is borne out by the statement appearing on the Islamic Minbar website.