Russian Intelligence Says Foreigners Were Arrested For Allegedly Recruiting People To Fight For ISIS

A photo taken on March 2, 2018, shows the headquarters of the FSB security service in Moscow. Sixty foreigners in Moscow were arrested for allegedly helping people migrate from Central Asia to fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Police and federal agents arrested 60 foreigners in Moscow for allegedly helping people migrate from Central Asia to fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Russian intelligence services announced Tuesday.

Intelligence officials said that 17 addresses had been raided and three laboratories found producing forged documents, seals and stamps to help people cross borders illegally. Law enforcement also discovered a collection of foreign passports and Russian migration cards. Sixty people have been detained and accused of forming part of what Russian intelligence called an “ethnic criminal group” organized to send support to Syria and Iraq. It is unclear which countries the 60 suspects came from, but many are suspected to be from the Central Asia region

Russia has become the world’s top exporter of foreign fighters to ISIS, according to a report released last year by the security consultancy the Soufan Group. The report claimed that around 3,417 people had left Russia to fight with ISIS. Many of the fighters from Russia came from the northern Caucasus region, which has several Muslim-majority republics, including Chechnya.

The total number from the former Soviet Union—which includes a handful of Muslim-majority countries in Central Asia—was 8,717, according to the report. In January, the terrorist group used blind fighters from Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country that shares borders with Russia, in one of its propaganda videos.

Russia's intelligence agency regularly touts its own success detaining suspected ISIS supporters in Russia. At least three additional arrests were made last year in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sakhalin. Police claimed that the suspects were planning to carry out terrorist attacks within the country.

In early February, Russian police also claimed to have shot dead a suspected ISIS militant in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. Intelligence officials said the jihadist came from a former Soviet Republic, but did not provide more details. A few weeks later, ISIS released a letter urging followers to attack Christians in Russia. 

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