(Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to its volatile North Caucasus region called Monday for tourism to be halted at the country’s most popular ski resort, where three Moscow tourists were gunned down by suspected Islamist rebels.
There has been heightened Security since February, the night the shoot-out and a succession of other attacks including blowing up a cable-car, killing a policeman and an official in Kabardino-Balkaria in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, where Moscow is failing to quell an Islamist insurgency. ”We must stop receiving tourists,” state-run Itar-TASS cited Alexander Khloponin who told officials in the town of Tyrnyauz on the main road leading to Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak, which was open for holiday-makers Monday.
Russia’s Tourism Union said the attack on a minibus of Moscow skiers by masked assailants was the first “terrorist” attack on tourists in Russia. It added that around 5,000 tourists visit Elbrus annually. This is certainly no scene found in James Bond or Incepetion, it is much worse.
Rebels, who want an Islamic state in the North Caucasus separate from Russia, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 36 people at Moscow’s busiest airport last month.
The Russian Tourism Union warned of a worsening situation if security measures are not significantly beefed up. Khloponin called on travel companies to “not bring new groups.”
“This is a very dangerous situation. Kabardino-Balkaria has nothing but tourism,” said spokeswoman Irina Tyurina. ”We call on authorities to save not only people, but also the region itself. Further attacks could ruin it,” she said, adding that dozens of travel agencies have called the Union asking if it is safe to go.