Russian authorities have apprehended at least seven people for allegedly plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on behalf of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) during the New Year’s celebrations in Moscow.
“The FSB [Federal Security Bureau] with the Russian Interior Ministry have thwarted the activities of an undercover group of Islamic State supporters in [the southern Republic of] Dagestan [in Russia’s North Caucasus region]. [The group] was planning terrorist attacks in the Moscow area,” revealed Russia’s main domestic and counterterrorism agency, the FSB, in a statement issued Thursday.
Russian state-run media outlets, such as the TASS news agency and Russia Today (RT), report that FSB agents uncovered firearms, hand grenades, ammunition, and components of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — homemade bombs — while searching the suspects’ homes.
The Associated Press (AP) notes:
The FSB said the suspects were preparing attacks with automatic weapons and explosives in crowded places. Islamist insurgents in Dagestan have mounted frequent attacks on police and officials, and some have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The arrests come after the pro-ISIS Nashir Media Foundation, ahead of the New Year’s Eve festivities, urged “lone wolves” in the West and Europe to carry out holiday attacks on “public venues including cinemas, malls and even hospitals” and also advised Muslims to stay safe by avoiding locations hosting holiday celebrations, reports the Foreign Desk (FD).
According to the FD, the pro-ISIS group has posted “horrific images” on an encrypted Telegram channel to persuade jihadists to carry out New Year’s terrorist attacks.
“You disbelieving dogs which prepared for Christmas celebrations, be ready for shedding the blood scattering the shreds and funerals, for the eyes of caliphate lions are looking straight towards you and promise you with bitter deaths,” reads the caption of one of the images.
“We will make your New Year mayhem with bombings and trampling attacks,” reads another inscription attached to a different picture.
Police across the world, including in the United States, Europe, Australia, Turkey, Indonesia, and now Russia, reportedly believe there is an ISIS terror attack threat for the New Year’s holiday.
Russia has been backing the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad since September 2015.
According to the Kremlin, thousands of individuals from Russia and ex-Soviet countries have traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS.
The Russia and Iran-backed Assad regime has primarily targeted the non-ISIS Syrian opposition. However, Assad does consider ISIS to be among the “terrorist” groups that threaten his regime.
Assad’s “overstretched military is mainly focused on combating Syrian opposition groups, some of which are supported by the United States,” reported AP in October. “Assad does use air power against IS-held areas and his ground forces are engaged in fighting with the extremists in Deir el-Zour in the east.”