Produced by Al Jazeera, ISIL: Target Russia delivers unprecedented access to the extremist terrorist organization, including their never-before-filmed female fighters. The focus of their current strategy is driven by a thirst for revenge against Russia.
Russia's history in the region is inflammatory. In December of 1979, Soviets sent their military to fight in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. They sought to overthrow the extremists who operated there, but their efforts were costly and ultimately futile. Pulling out of the region after nearly a decade of brutal bloodshed, USSR left behind a vacuum which empowered the rise of the Taliban (during the cold war were initially armed and trained by the USA) and subsequently the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIL.
Now, under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, Russia is striking out against ISIL in Syria, and their actions have further intensified the hostilities of the terrorist group. Instead of structuring their retaliatory aggression against the west, ISIL now considers Russia their number one enemy, and they're determined to launch a series of devastating attacks on the Russian homeland. ISIL fighters have their sights set squarely on cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, and they claim to have sleeper cells fully embedded and at the ready.
For its part, Russia expresses supreme confidence in their ability to defeat any ISIL enemy that crosses over their borders. Yet recently, a deadly subway bombing was carried out by a lone extremist in St. Petersburg. This incident exposed Russia's vulnerability to such threats, and served as a potential forecast to the dangers yet to come.
There are no shortage of documentaries on the scourge of terrorist conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, but ISIL: Target Russia is unique among them. The film allows us to see the faces of the enemy, hear their thoughts as expressed in their own voices, and learn their strategies for enacting their schemes of vengeance. We meet a mother who suffers in a constant state of fear and exhaustion, but nevertheless feels it is her duty to defend her family against the tyranny of Russian involvement in the region. We watch as they flee a mountain camp after catching sight of an oncoming drone. We feel the presence of impending doom as they outline their grandiose plans for annihilating Russian opponents.
It's a rare, instructive and frightening portrait.