Alexei Malashenko, a North Caucasus researcher at the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank, warned that it could be the first in a series of attacks ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “I am very worried, but I believe this is the first bell before the Olympics. We should expect more attacks,” said Malashenko according to the Moscow Times.
The Los Angeles Times reports that It was the latest instance of violence from the Caucasus, fueled by nationalism and Islamic extremism, spilling over into other parts of Russia.
This latest event follows ethnic violence in Moscow earlier this month. The Wall Street Journal reports that police temporarily detained more than a thousand migrant workers to calm tensions following a riot triggered by the killing of a Russian man that residents blamed on a migrant from the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region.
The number of Muslims in Moscow may be as high as three million, according to ITAR-TASS, making Moscow's Muslim population the largest of any city in Europe. The growing numbers are served by only four mosques. The mayor of Moscow has prohibited further mosque constructions, arguing that most of the Muslims are temporary residents, also according to ITAR-TASS.
A recent Pew Research study finds that social hostilities involving religion in Russia such as these have been rising in recent years, predominantly driven by tensions emanating from the Caucasus. Religious hostilities have been rising in Europe as a whole, including increasing by more than twofold in Russia between mid-2006 and the end of 2011, as shown in the chart below.
Religious freedom by the numbers - see the TEDx video and take the quiz!