AStill the flames at Crocus City Hall had not been put out on Friday, when the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on the Moscow shopping center that killed at least 137 people.

Although the terrorist group immediately assured that the individuals involved in the attack were “safe”, the Russian authorities made some arrests and accused at least four men from Tajikistan of having committed a terrorist crime which, according to Russian law, could give up to life imprisonment.

So far, a total of 11 people have been arrested allegedly in connection with the attack in Russia.

Already on Friday, several US officials pointed out that the attack could be related to members of ISIS-K, an affiliated group of Daesh.

But what group is this?

This group was formed in 2015, and is mainly active in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. According to CNN International, the relationship between Daesh and this group is not completely clear, as despite them sharing the same ideology and tactics, the ‘depth’ of their relationship has never been completely established – that is, in terms of chains of control.

In 2018, the affiliated group was even considered the 4th deadliest terrorist group, according to an analysis carried out by the Institute for Economy and Peace at a global level. According to the United Nations (UN), the group has with around 2,200 key fighters based in Afghanistan.

What does the group want? And where does it attack?

Like Daesh, ISIS-K’s goal is to create a “pure Islamic State”, with a vision of a “global caliphate”.

The group also has the Taliban ‘in its sights’, with this group’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021 resulting in an attack in the country – which killed 170 Afghans and 13 US soldiers. According to the North American press, it was, so far, the most consequential attack by the terrorist group worldwide.

The animosity between the Taliban and the group will be reciprocal, and the jihadist group attracts, according to CNN International, those with even more extremist views than those now leading in Afghanistan.

In addition to the Taliban, ISIS-K attacks have also been directed at some Afghan minorities, such as the Hazara community.

So far, most attacks have been in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2020, they attacked a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital, which killed 24 people and a few months later, in the same year, they killed 22 people in an attack on a university.

The affiliated group is also the prime suspect in an attack that happened the following year. In the explosion, which took place using a car bomb, at least 85 people died. The incident took place near a girls’ high school.

But why attack Russia?

According to a security expert interviewed by CNN International, the “Russia has been at the top of the ISIS list for many years” – and when he talks about this list, he refers to a ‘black list’. The Taliban have also been criticized by ISIS-K for being “too close” to Moscow, explained Daniel Byman.

In 2022, the affiliated group claimed an attack near the Russian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The attack killed six people, including two consular officials.

Over the last month, ISIS-K has left a ‘trail’ of incidents in Russia, with at least four situations related to members of this group.

At the beginning of March, on the 7th, Russian security forces managed to prevent a Daesh attack on a synagogue in Moscow, according to what Reuters explains. The suspects were killed.

This year, the UN Security Council warned that this group was planning or carrying out “operational conspiracies” in Europe. According to the agency, seven people were arrested last year in Germany while planning “high-impact terrorist attacks”.

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