Russian authorities have arrested at least 20 Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) recruiters in Moscow.
“During a joint operation of the FSB (Federal Security Service) and the police, around twenty people suspected of connections to ISIS (Islamic State) were arrested,” said one source. “According to preliminary information, they were searching for and recruiting new members in Moscow.”
Officials claim the majority traveled from Uzbekistan with “fake documents, including false Turkish driving licenses.”
Outside of the Middle East, more Russians join the Islamic State than people of any other nationality. Last summer, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov announced that over 2,200 Russians are currently fighting with the terrorist group. The jihadists live in Syria and Iraq.
“The figures start getting really alarming,” he stated, adding:
At the time being, around 2,200 people from Russia are engaged in the fighting in Syria and Iraq. Among them, about 500 came from Europe, where they had earlier obtained citizenship, residence permit or refugee status. We are thoroughly analyzing belligerent statements of IS leaders on transition of the “jihad” to Northern Caucasus and in Central Asia.
Syromolotov also claimed the number is alarming because so many people could possibly come back radicalized and spread their hatred.
“It’s clear that they bring along not only their terrorist potential itself, but also radical ideas, a source for negative ideological impact on the society, especially on its most vulnerable members,” he said.
In mid-June, the Interior Ministry reported over 400 Chechens have joined terrorist groups, mainly Islamic State, since the Syrian Civil War broke out.
“A total of 405 people, according to our data, have left Chechnya to join the fighting in Syria on the side of the Islamic State since the beginning of the war in that region,” said the spokesman. “Among those, 104 have been killed and 44 came back, while the fate of the rest is unknown.”
Chechens in Syria threatened President Vladimir Putin for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and in a video released last September, vowed to liberate Chechnya and Russia’s North Caucasus.
“We will, with the consent of Allah, free Chechnya and all of the Caucasus!” said the fighter. “The Islamic State is here and will stay here, and it will spread with the grace of Allah! Your throne has already been shaken. It is under threat and will fall with our arrival. We’re already on our way with the grace of Allah!”
An American airstrike killed Omar al-Shishani, Islamic State’s War Minister, in early March. Shishani, born Tarkhan Batirashvili in Georgia, recruited others for jihad in his home country before he traveled to Syria and Iraq. Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi promoted the red haired, fair-skinned Chechen to military chief. Unlike Baghdadi, Shishani made many public appearances. He appeared prominently in a propaganda video touring a children’s terrorist training camp.