Tuesday night’s attack on a citadel in Derbent, Dagestan, which left one dead and 11 wounded, has been claimed by ISIS today, marking the second ISIS-claimed attack in the Russian Caucasus in the past few months, and adding to fears that they are establishing a presence there.
Russia has struggled with Islamist attacks in Dagestan and Chechnya for many years now, but previously those threats had been overwhelmingly home-grown. Though there was a measure of international Salafist interest in the Chechnya fighting, it amounted to very little actual involvement.
ISIS has been heavily recruiting out of Dagestan and Chechnya for years, and has benefited from the seasoned fighters from the Chechnya wars. This may also be giving them an interest in expanding into the Russian Caucasus with some of these same fighters, particularly with Russia increasingly involved in the Syrian war.
This could be a meaningful force in a short period of time, as officials have estimated between 600 and 900 Dagestanis have gone off to join ISIS in Syria, and despite officials downplaying the “limited” potential for ISIS in Russia, ISIS has shown an ability to differentiate itself from local competition and establish itself in short order elsewhere.