Security Consulting Intelligence Agency - Strategic Forecasting
Nalchik: The 9/11 That Wasn't
By Fred Burton
Russian military forces are continuing mop-up operations in Nalchik, a city in the Caucasus region where Islamist militants last week staged a series of coordinated attacks -- signaling attempts to widen the Chechen conflict to other parts of Russia. The incident, which burst into the international news Oct. 13, is significant on several levels -- not least of which was the much-improved counterterrorism response by Russian forces, without which the raids conceivably might have expanded into something approaching the Sept. 11 attacks in terms of geopolitical impact.
As it happens, the events that took place involved some 100 to 150 armed militants, who attempted to seize control of the airport at Nalchik while also assaulting police stations, government offices and the regional headquarters of the Russian prison system, among other targets. All told, about 100 people were killed -- more than 60 of them militants, and roughly equal numbers of security forces and civilians. That's hardly what anyone would term a "minor incident," but compared to other attacks by Chechen militants -- such as the school hostage crisis in Beslan in 2004 or a similar event at a Moscow theater in 2002 -- the Russian response was swifter and the outcome much better.
This is not due to dumb luck: The response logically stems from drastically improved intelligence-gathering and targeting priorities in Russian counterterrorism strategies, which underwent a sea change following the Beslan incident. In fact, there is reason to believe that the militants who planned the attacks in Nalchik (an operation that has been claimed by Moscow's arch-enemy, Shamil Basayev) actually were forced into carrying out their operation prematurely, after Russian intelligence got wind of a much larger and more chilling plot -- one combining all the most deadly tactics of both Sept. 11 and Beslan.
Russian military contacts and other sources have told us that the events in Nalchik apparently were supposed to be only the first phase of a plan that ultimately was to include flying explosives-laden aircraft into high-profile targets elsewhere in Russia. Though the exact targets have not been confirmed, sources say possible targets included the Kremlin, a military district headquarters and railway hub in Rostov-on-Don, a nuclear plant in the vicinity of Saratov, and a hydroelectric plant or dam on the Volga. Sources also say the militants had a back-up plan that would have involved mining important government buildings and taking hostages -- tactics the Chechens have used in other headline-grabbing attacks.
This is from Stratfor. You have to pay through the nose for their intel info, but it is fascinating. I subscribed to their free email newsletter, and that's where I got this article. George Friedman's book was excellent also.