Sunday, 7 May 2017

Trains of horror: On St Petersburg and Stockholm and Syria

Saint Petersburg, Russia

This week (April 13, 17) has been filled with such rapid events that many ordinary people and pundits are getting whiplashes responding and comprehending the series of tragic events. On Monday April 3rd, St Petersburg, Russia was hit by a metro bomb attack which killed 14 people from university students to the elderly. Like Moscow and other cities recently witnessing truck attacks and train bombings, violence of this size was a rare occurrence in Europe until five years ago. Terror and horrific violence was seen as something that happens to African and Asian peoples due to . The suitcase bomb is an old tactic used by militant and terror groups around the world. It is not uncommon to see suitcases and briefcases being clutched and carried on metro stations the world over. As many metro riders known, leaving any bag in the metro or placing one down out of eye is enough to raise numerous blood pressures.

Using military to fight terrorism only increases it

ISIS and its Takfiri cousins were ruled out as a possible connection since ISIS loyalists and lone wolves rely more on ramming into crowds and buildings with unassuming commercial trucks. At first, the pundits and journalists pointed figures at Chechen militants or some unknown metro rider from the North Caucasus, where a regional insurgency in Chechnya and Daghestan has been ongoing since the fall of Soviet Union. The Russian Army has used heavy handed tactics to halt the Chechen independence movement turned insurgency. The same has been done in Daghestan using militarized police to arrest and detained suspected insurgents and by extension suspected future terrorists. In turn disappearance of journalists, the brutal arrests and reports of torture mostly protested by Daghestanis and Chechen peacefully have been transformed into terror attacks by militants inside Russia. Recall the Nord Ost Moscow Theatre Siege in 2004, Moscow metro suicide bombings in 2010 and some mysterious apartment buildings. The suspect who survived the bombing and managed to flee the metro meaning he knew the city well was a Russian citizen whose family migrated from Krygzstan years ago. There might be more accomplaices as the false alarm terror alerts have rised St. Peterburg's police.

When the world thinks of St. Petersburg, it is seen as a city of beauty, the most "European" and recognizes as Russia's most cosmopolitan city. It's metro handles 2 million riders a day. It's home to several universities and a port. It is one of many 1 million resident Russian cities the Western region. Remember Russia sits on two continents. Most of Russia is in Asia, only a small stretch of it is in Eastern Europe. In the aftermath of the Bolkshelvish Revolution and Lenin coming to power in the 1920s, the city was renamed Leningrad even long after Lenin's death. The name was changed back to St. Petersburg in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. It is Putin's birth town. The Florida city of St Petersburg, whose own name is known locally as St. Pete was named after the Russian city. This was a century before Russia became the boogeyman of American pop culture. There were no tri color Russian flag memorials lit up on the Effiel Tower, the Budengate, at Big Ben, Brussels, the Empire State building or the Sydney Opera once the world saw the horrific scenes and mourning families around St. Petersburg and anti terrorism protests there and in Moscow. The same flood of tears from ordinary people and prayers for London (two weeks earlier) were absent for St. Petersburg's 14 victims and the same goes for the victims of the earlier Moscow bombing a few years back. St. Petersburg attacks was overshadowed and more outraged given to the questionable Sarin Gas attack in Syria a few days ago.

Stockholm truck attack: Boomeranging butterfly terror 

Drottingatan Shopping District on a normal day with the flags of Europe. Drottingatan is one of Stockholm's many pedestrian friendly streets. It also runs parallel to many major streets and Stockholm Central station.

The driver of the stolen beer truck, Rakhmat Akilov who is alive, has turned himself in and confessed to the attack. It should be mentioned that he has no connection to ISIS or any terror group. He is an Ubzek asylum seeker who was facing deportation back to his country following his asylum rejection a week before. Also remember, Uzbeks are rarely involved in violent attacks outside of Uzbekistan or Syria where very few Uzbeks have joined ISIS. As is the case with a lot of terror attacks or mass shootings in the first 24 hours, the series of the events will change as time progresses. The store camera's footage of the truck plying through a small crowd pass one store is particularly gruesome. Ironically, one of the first victims of the attack was Belgian psychologist Maïlys Dereymaeker who worked with failed asylum seekers to fight their deportations. The fact that the driver survived the initial fiery crash into the upmarket department store Ahlens and managed to flee the scene is also extraordinary. Ordinary Swedes were horrified and traumatized. The street that the attack occurred on is the popular shopping district and tourist attraction Drottninggatan that runs few blocks east parallel to where Stockholm's Central train station and the corner where parliament is located. The street has been at the same location since the 1620s and is named for Sweden's 17th century Queen Catherine. Drottninggatan is equivalent to Istanbul's famed Istiklal Street. The Swedish Parliament was placed on locked down as were other office buildings on Drottninggatan and other major streets in a 5 mile radius. Oddly enough, Drottninga. Seven years ago, Drottninggatan was the scene of a failed Swedish suicide bomber who had planned to attack his own countrymen only to be killed by his own bomb. In another historic irony, Olaf Palme was assassinated in 1986 near Drottninggatan on a nearby connecting street Sveavagen. The cross street for Sveavagen Street is Olaf Palme Street or OlafPalmegatan. The Palme assassination greatly shocked Sweden at the time as Stockholm and other towns were considered extremely safe enough for politicians to walk around the city without bodyguards as Palme had done. Such a fool hearty decision to not have bodyguards would be condemned by follow politicians and the wider public today.

The old saying that a butterfly's wings flapping one place can create chaos in another is ringing true. Having its back against the wall and loosing ground, ISIS continues to rely on Chaos Theory to terrify soldiers, its hostages, recruits and victims. It is not the first terror group to rely such a theory. Unlike past insurgency groups' whose causes many governments attempted to emphasize and understand its origins, ISIS isn't pushing a particular cause. It's response to events in Syria is boomeranging violence across the world including Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and Turkey. It wasn't coincidental that right after the Manchild in Chief aka President Donald Trump ordered a rapid fire (literally) missle strike using tomhawk missiles on the Syrian Airbase al Sharyat, Sweden was the site of a truck attack. ISIS has yet to claim responsibility. The air strike on Syria was in response to a doubtful Sarin gas attack in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikoun. It wasn't Assad who attacked Syrian civilians with gas but it might be the rebels themselves. It is not conspiracy theory. The previous chemical attack on Syrian civilians in Ghouta in 2013 was alleged to be Assad and later proven to be the works of rebels. Russia was even blamed for supplying gas to the Syrian government but evidence points to rebels. Trump has shown himself to pay more attention to the pundits' opinions on the geopolitics of the Middle East and Syria than actual fact. He is one world leader who doesn't look where he leaps or jumps into. Diplomacy is secondary for him. The Ghouta gas attack didn't lead to the United States bombarding Damascus. The U.S. has been bombing Syria directly for the past two years in a more discreet manner. But American bombings in Syria and Iraq have been getting the attention of news outlets. The U.S. is also using NATO and Israel's occassional bombings as well. Israel has been surprisingly quiet concerning Syria's ongoing war trauma. .

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