MOSCOW: The militant Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility after a man stabbed seven people on the street in a remote far northern Russian city before being shot dead by police, despite investigators saying it was probably not a terrorist attack.

“The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Surgut in Russia is a soldier of the IS,” IS propaganda outlet Amaq said in a statement, after the jihadists also claimed responsibility for twin attacks in Spain that left 14 dead.

The attack also comes a day after a stabbing spree in Finland, which left two people dead and eight others injured and is being investigated as a terrorist attack, although the assailant’s motive is unknown.

The city of Surgut lies some 2,100 kilometres northeast of Moscow and is the largest in the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi region. It does not have a large Muslim population.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said a man in Surgut had “carried out attacks on passers-by, causing stab wounds” on Saturday morning. It said armed police called to the scene “liquidated” the attacker.

Regional officials said seven people were taken to hospital, with the figure confirmed by investigators, who lowered an earlier toll of eight wounded.

A spokesman for regional police downplayed the possibility of a terrorist incident, telling Interfax news agency that the theory that the incident was “a terrorist (attack) is not the main one”. There has not yet been any official response to the IS claim.

Franz Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the defence commission of the upper house of the Russian parliament, cast doubt on the IS link.

“I doubt it. It’s impossible to tell if this is just PR or not. I don’t believe (the Surgut stabbings) have anything to do with IS, ” he told Govorit Moskva radio station.

The Investigative Committee said it had established the attacker’s identity, saying he was a local resident born in 1994, and that they were looking into “his possible psychiatric disorders”.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny questioned authorities’ treatment of the incident, writing on Twitter: “Someone runs round with a knife and tries to kill as many people as possible. What is that, if not a terrorist attack?” Investigators have opened a criminal probe into attempted murder, not terrorism, with the Investigative Committee’s chief Alexander Bastrykin taking the case under his personal control.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2017

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