A senior intelligence official in Russia expressed warnings regarding the potential influence of the Islamic State militant group in the country, particularly among the Muslims in the North Caucasus provinces.
Russia’s Federal Security Service Deputy Chief, Gen. Sergei Smirnov, said the Islamic State is “beginning to infiltrate” terrorist organizations that are operating in the North Caucasus region.
Some Russian warlords pledged allegiance to Islamic State
According to Gen. Smirnov, some of the warlords of the prohibited Imarat of Caucasus pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. He described the situation as a “very dangerous trend.”
Gen. Smirnov added that approximately 1,700 Russians joined the militant group to fight in Iraq and Syria. According to him, that actual number is probably higher than his estimate.
Federal forces in Russia fought two wars in Chechnya which were caused by separatist groups. At present, the situation in the region has become more stable under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, a strongman supported by Kremlin. The Islamic insurgency in Chechnya is no longer active. However, the separatists focused their operations in different parts of the North Caucasus provinces where bombings and killings of law enforcement officials have become an ordinary incident.
Putin’s ordered senior officials to track Russians joining Islamic State
Last month, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy confirmed that at least five militants who return to Russia after fighting in Syria were killed during security sweeps last year.
Putin emphasized during his remarks to senior officials of the Federal Security Service that one of the top priorities of the government is to track Russian citizens who left to fight alongside the Islamic State.
Islamic State vowed to wage war against Russia
Last year, members of the Islamic State threatened President Putin in a video and vowed to wage war against Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region.
The video was reportedly filmed in the seized airport of the province of Raqqa, Syria and featured an Islamic State fighter seated in a military jet saying, “This message is for you, Vladimir Putin! These are the aircraft you sent to Bashar [Assad], and we’re going to send them to you. Remember that!”
The Islamic State fighter added, “Your throne has already been shaken, it is under threat and will fall with our arrival [in Russia]. … We’re already on our way with the will of Allah!”
He further said, “We will with the consent of Allah free Chechnya and all of the Caucasus! The Islamic State is here and will stay here, and it will spread with the grace of Allah!” A fighter is shown in the video, which is available on YouTube with Russian subtitles.
A voice of a Russian was heard in the video describing the jets captured by the Islamic State fighters. The person said, “This is a Russian technology.” The video was released by Al Arabiya.
Prior to the release of that video last year, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the “horrific crimes” of the Islamic State. The ministry also urged China and Western countries to join forces to stop the militant group’s terrorism.
Meanwhile, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov responded to the warning of the Islamic State against Russia. He said Islamic State fighters are “jerks” and “have nothing to do with Islam and blatant enemies of Muslims all over the world.”
Kadyrov added that the Islamic State fighters are “naive people who decided to threaten Chechnya and all of Russia with two aircraft. They can sit in 2,000 aircraft and still not make it to Russia.”
“I declare, with all responsibility, that whoever gets it into their heads to threaten Russia and speak the name of President Vladimir Putin will be destroyed as soon as he says it. We won’t even wait for him to sit at the helm of a plane,” wrote Kadyrov on Instagram.