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MOSCOW - The bloodiest attack on Moscow in at least six years has confounded Russia's attempt to cauterise an Islamist insurgency spreading across the North Caucasus region.
Striking at rush hour in the heart of the Russian capital on Monday, the bombers could open a new front in the Kremlin's "silent war" against insurgents who dream of creating a pan-Caucasus, Sharia-based state along Russia's southern flank.
Russia says the bombings, which killed 39 people, were carried out by a group with links to the North Caucasus, giving credibility to statements by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov that he would attack Russian cities and energy pipelines.
"The silent war of the North Caucasus has come to the streets of Moscow," said Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knotnews agency.
"I fear that unfortunately there will be more of these terrorist attacks both against Moscow and against Russian cities as the insurgents take their war outside the borders of the North Caucasus to the Russian heartland."
Many analysts and rights activists say a war in the republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan has been largely ignored by domestic voters and the wider world.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but if the bombings are the work of militants from the North Caucasus, then they could propel the insurgency to the heart of the political agenda ahead of the 2012 presidential elections.
"The authorities over the past years had lulled Russians into thinking that terrorism was localised in North Caucasus and that it did not threaten run-of-the-mill citizens," Russia's respected business daily Vedomosti said in an editorial. - Reuters