With Russia's direct military involvement in the Syrian campaign against ISIS, there are increasing concerns that the radical Islamist organization might export terrorism to Russia.
Aslan Baisultanov, a man suspected of plotting a terrorist attack in Moscow, stands in a defendants' cage in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. Security officials said the suspects arrested Sunday were trained by the Islamic State group and had planned a terror attack on the Moscow public transport system. Photo: AP
For example, on Oct. 11 the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC) announced the arrest of a terrorist cell in Moscow allegedly planning an attack in the Russian capital. During the arrest, security forces discovered and defused an improvised explosive device (IED). Speaking at a visiting session of the NAC in Nalchik on Oct. 12, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov remarked that, “20 terror attacks had been averted in the past year.”
This latest incident involved the detention in Moscow of a group of Russian citizens, all members of the international terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS). They are accused of plotting IED attacks on public transport facilities. Among the detainees was Baysultanov, who had arrived from Syria to mastermind the operation.
The export of terrorism from Syria onto Russia soil by ISIS-trained and combat-hardened Russian citizens is not some distant threat. According to experts, the return of foot soldiers from Islamic hotspots will cause further radicalization of Muslims in Russia.
A similar phenomenon occurred in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries when members of the mujahedeen returned to their home countries after the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, bringing with them absolute intolerance of any ideology other than their own.
Besides the ideological component, one must consider the economic and financial factors at play. The simple truth is that terrorism can ensure a comfortable future.
In fact, in today’s world terrorism is rapidly becoming a well-paid, in-demand profession. To date, the Russian security services are aware of 2,719 Russian citizens fighting for ISIS.
Governments, however, are often guilty of double standards, pursuing policies that simultaneously “weaken countries where terrorists reside, while creating the conditions for those very terrorists to thrive.”
National security experts today are doubly active, since the new reality is that Russian citizens returning from hot spots are being used to inspire anti-government movements and terrorist operations.
Mokhmad Mezhidov, a man suspected of plotting a terrorist attack in Moscow, sits in a defendants' cage in a court room in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. Security officials said the suspects arrested Sunday were trained by the Islamic State group and had planned a terror attack on the Moscow public transport system. Photo: AP
Moreover, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has declared himself the supreme caliph and stated that the main enemies of ISIS are the United States and Russia. This, alongside other factors, was the cue for Russia’s aerial operation against terrorist bases used for training and ideological purposes.
The ISIS leadership is bound to respond [this week it declared a jihad against Russia — Editor’s note]. The events of Oct. 11 in Moscow, and the 20 thwarted attacks this year, are proof of that.
The number of attempted terror attacks in Russia is set to rise, and not only in the major cities. The security services and law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly beef up their operations as a consequence.
But leaders of the anti-terrorist campaign on the ground, i.e. regional governors, should also be concerned, since for them preventative anti-terror activity is often a formality. But in war (and the fight against terrorism certainly is a war) there are no formalities, and the 2,719 (or more) Russian citizens in ISIS are nothing other than a fifth column.
What’s more, despite not being openly conducted, such activity encourages various international players to step up their claims against Russia, no matter how far-fetched they might be and regardless of the fact that “terrorism is a threat to all countries even outside the ISIS context.”
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.