What amounts to the third successful suicide bombing in southern Russia in just two months — and on top of two other abortive attempts — is a reminder that Islamicist terror has not diminished despite the assassination of Osama bin Laden or the democratic promise of the popular Arab uprisings. Terror has merely metamorphosed back into the localised movements it had existed as before bin Laden's arrival — but arguably now more capable, more ideologically extreme and thus more dangerous than before.
Russia, for example, had come to assume that its suppression of the Chechen terror movement had brought it a degree of peace that allowed it to safely play host to the Sochi Winter Olympics in February. But the Volgograd blasts are a reminder how terror defeated is often little more than terror displaced. Other parts of the world experienced the same this past year. Over 6,000 Iraqis have died in sectarian violence that resumed last year and is increasingly guided by al Qaeda affiliates. Al Shabaab, the Somali extremist group that had been written off, returned with a massacre in a Kenyan shopping mall. India saw the Line of Control and Kashmir turn bloody again after a three-year gap as Lashkar-e-Taiba returned to an eastern gameplan. Even China has experienced a steady trickle of terror attacks, including one at Tiananmen Square. One al Qaeda affiliate actually took over much of the country of Mali for a few days.
Unfortunately, the worst is probably yet to come. The festering political sore in the Muslim world today is the jihad battleground that was once Syria and Iraq. An estimated 11,000 foreign jihadi fighters are now fighting in Syria, battling the Shia government and secular rebels alike, and once again plotting the creation of a fundamentalist, terror-exporting caliphate in the region. This may prove to be what Afghanistan became for Islamicist terror in the 1980s — a blood rite, ideological proving area and, ultimately, exporter of messianic terror to the world. Al Qaeda was born of Afghanistan's violent chaos. The coming year will show if something similar is set to happen in Syria.