New Solo Terrorist Species Act in London and St. Petersburg
Common features were exhibited by two apparently different solo terrorists: Khaled Masood, 53, who murdered five people and injured 50 near the British parliament on March 22, and Akbarzhon Jalilov, 23, who blew up a metro train at St. Petersburg on April 3, causing 14 deaths and inuring fifty.
Masood was born in Britain and Jalilov was a Russian.
Nevertheless, although they belonged to different generations and their attacks were staged 2,000km apart, the features and deadly agenda they shared must give anti-terror agencies pause.
Neither figured on their governments’ respective security agencies’ watch lists of suspicious Islamic extremists. No evidence was found of associates or accomplices for their attacks in Britain or Russia – nor, according to the British and Russian intelligence agencies, outside their countries.
Both sought out government or spectacular targets for maximum international exposure. Jalilov, like Masood, was reconciled to not coming out of his attack alive.
The British terrorist, using a car and a knife as weapons, managed to enter the Parliament compound, though not the building, while Prime Minister Theresa May was announcing she had triggered Article 50 for the UK’s formal exit from the European Union.
The officials in charge of her safety bundled her out of the House, showing signs of panic and confusion, and drove her to safety away from Parliament and her 10 Downing Street residence.
The Russian terrorist detonated a bomb on the St. Petersburg subway, which serves two million commuters a day, when President Vladimir Putin welcomed the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to his home town. Both used the most basic, easily available weapons of death.
Russian security forces, caught unawares, reacted in the first two hours much like their colleagues in London with panic and confusion.
The two investigations into the attacks came up with similar results, although the Russian and British terrorists had never met, nor did they share any contacts. Their relatives, friends and acquaintances did not have a clue that Masood and Jalilov were hatching terrorist plots.
Shortly before they struck, the two men moved to rented accommodation easily accessible to their targeted arenas. The British terrorist moved to Birmingham, 40 minutes drive to London; Jalilov rented a flat in northeastern St. Petersburg, 20 minutes from the Tekhnologichesky Institute station where he caught the train which he blew up.
Both men were subsequently found to have had close ties with radical Islamist circles outside their countries that were never discovered by Russian and British intelligence. Those covert contacts are now believed to have secretly radicalized the two men.
Masood made those contacts during the two visits he paid to Saudi Arabia, staying long enough during one to work as an English teacher, despite his lack of training.
Jalilov was at home in the southern Kyrgyzstan town of Osh.
This town is situated in the Fergana Valley which straddles Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, whose predominantly Uzbek populations have a tradition of Islamist radicalism. Hundreds have joined the Islamic State jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq.
This green and fertile valley also provides safe hideouts for the hundreds of Uyghuris on the run from their homes in the north Chinese Autonomous Region-XUAR.
Khaled Masood and Akbarzhon Jalilov have given the standard “lone wolf” terrorist a special guise. This new species of jihadist killer took the stage on two continents in two world cities, London and St. Petersburg, just twelve days apart.