4 Suspected ISIS Militants Captured in Ingushetia

NAZRAN, Russia – A counterterrorism unit operating in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region has captured four local militants suspected of having close ties to radical Islamist group ISIS, Moscow’s National Anti-Terror Committee said in a prepared statement.

The counterterrorism committee said they apprehended the suspects during a raid by an FSB special forces unit operating in the republic of Ingushetia.

“The FSB and special interior ministry units foiled the criminal activity of an illegal underground cell associated with the international terrorist organization ISIS,” the counterterrorism body’s statement said.

Russian officials said the four suspects would be charged with planning terrorist attacks against local government officials, interior ministry troops, and other Muslims in the region who reject ISIS’ extremist version of Islam.

The counterterrorism committee also reportedly found three weapons caches hidden by the suspects that included small arms, several kilograms of high explosives and Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers.

The capture of the cell came only days before the FSB discovered seven weapons caches in a village near Ingushetia’s largest city Nazran.

The security services reportedly raided a house in the village of Yekazhevo where they discovered a ready-to-use improvised explosive device, more than 40 kilos of high explosives, four RPGs, RPK machine guns and a large quantity of ammunition and grenades, according to regional news site Kavkazsky Uzel.

Ingushetia, along with neighboring Chechnya and Dagestan, has suffered from a low-level, but bloody, insurgency carried out by Islamic militants for more than a decade.

Immediately following the end of the Second Chechen War in 2001, former rebel fighters fled to neighboring republics on Chechnya’s flanks. As the Kremlin brutally reasserted its control over the highly volatile region in the mid-2000s, insurgent fighters continued to carry out regular attacks on Russian troops and local pro-Moscow government officials from isolated mountain positions in Ingushetia.

Though initially a part of a secular post-Soviet national liberation movement against Russian rule, many of the Chechen and Ingush fighters have in recent years embraced an extreme form of Salafism and sworn allegiance to ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the North Caucasus has become one of the prime sources of highly skilled and battled-hardened fighters volunteering for the Islamic State.

Western intelligence agencies estimate that more than 2,700 Russian citizens are serving in the ranks of ISIS - the third largest national contingent in the terrorist organization - the overwhelming majority of which are thought to be from Russia’s Muslim North Caucasus republics.

Nicholas Waller

26 May 2016 14:47