Airport bomber converted by Russian imam: Report

Vitaly Razdobudko, who has emerged as suspect over Moscow airport blast was converted by an imam.

Updated: Jan 28, 2011, 20:32 PM IST

Moscow: The man who has emerged as the
initial suspect over the suicide bombing at Moscow Domodedovo
airport lived in south Russia and was converted to Islam by an
ethnic Russian imam.

Police reportedly honed in on Vitaly Razdobudko
after connecting him with Islamist militant group Nogaisky
Dzhamaat and a December 31 blast in Moscow where a would-be
female suicide bomber accidentally blew herself up.

Investigators said Razdobudko has been missing from
his apartment in the southern resort town of Pyatigorsk in the
Stavropol region since last November along with his wife and a
newborn baby.

Razdobudko, 32, converted from Christianity and
adopted Islam when he was a student in the local technical
university. He was formally converted by a local imam in
Pyatigorsk, a Russian named Anton Stepanenko, a report said.

Stepanenko, whose Muslim name is Abdullah, was
convicted of holding a man captive in 2006, and police found
Wahhabist literature, audio and video materials, as well as a
manual on explosives, in his home.

He received a suspended sentence after the Muslim
community, including the head of the Council of Muftis of
Russia Ravil Gainutdin, spoke in his defence and wrote an open
letter to then-president Vladimir Putin.

Razdobudko, who has already been branded "Russian
Wahhabi" by the press, went missing two months after he was
questioned about a blast in Pyatigorsk last August.

He was not the suicide bomber who set off the blast
in Domodedovo on Monday, RIA Novosti reported today. A video
camera "clearly shows that it is a different person," a police
source told the agency. Instead, it appears he is suspected of
being a possible organiser, it added.

A Russian Islamist organiser proselytised by a
Russian imam could signify a trend already manifest in Europe
and the United States of the spread of radical Islam among
non-Muslims.

"People are disenchanted by the government, the
customs and politics of the Orthodox church," said Sergei
Arutyunov an ethnographer and expert on the Caucasus in the
Russian Academy of Sciences.

He said however, that conversion of Russians into
Islam is not likely prompt a change in tack from the security
services. "It won`t make the work of security forces more
challenging -- they already work very poorly."

"The problem is not that there are Wahhabis among
people of Slavic ethnicity, it is much more serious: a whole
generation grew up in this war, people that were formed by its
ideology," said security expert Alexander Goltz.

"In a megapolis, fighting terror using ethnic
principles is useless," he told a news agency. "Detaining men with dark
hair and big noses -- that`s not a tactic that works."

PTI