Russian police on Wednesday detained 15 heavily armed radical Islamists in Moscow who allegedly belong to a banned offshoot of the Al-Qaeda terror network and were preparing suicide strikes.
The Interior Ministry said members of Takfir wal-Hijra — a group formed in Egypt in the late 1960s and outlawed in Russia in 2010 — had been discovered hiding weapons and suicide belts along with extremist literature.
Footage on Russian channels showed riot police burst into a high-rise apartment in a pre-dawn raid and threw several men face down on the floor.
Police were shown opening plastic bags holding grenades and pistols as well as a heavy black object identified as an explosive belt. The Ministry said the group had been funding its activities by “conducting general crime” in and around Moscow.
Russia remains on security alert ahead of the February 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that lies near the volatile North Caucasus. A North Caucasus guerilla commander, who has claimed responsibility for a string of suicide bombings in Moscow has threatened to target the Sochi Games. Officials in 2011 claimed to have uncovered a terror plot against the Games by Islamist rebels who allegedly used little-policed mountain regions of Georgia as their base.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has said Russia is “very worried” about security at all its sporting events. Takfir wal-Hijra was quashed in Egypt in the 1970s but is believed to have cells linked to Al-Qaeda in several European and other countries. — PTI