The special operation conducted on Nov. 22 in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic.Vitaly Nevar/TASS
A local gang affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) group, which is banned in Russia, has been eliminated in the North Caucasus by Russian law-enforcement agencies, the National Anti-Terrorist Committee has reported.
The special operation conducted on Nov. 22 in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic (1,000 miles south of Moscow) by Federal Security Service officers was the biggest in recent months in terms of the number of militants killed, with 11 individuals neutralized.
The gang was reportedly assisting local residents who wanted to fight alongside ISIS by assisting them in traveling to Syria, as well as plotting terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus. Numerous firearms, cartridges, components for making improvised explosive devices and two ready IEDs were seized in the gang's hideout.
On their website, local Islamists denied reports that those killed were affiliated with ISIS. According to them, those militants had not pledged allegiance to ISIS but, on the contrary, in their manifestos and other materials there is a lot of criticism of ISIS and sympathy for its rival Al-Qaeda (also banned in Russia).
The only militant in Kabardino-Balkaria to have publicly pledged allegiance to ISIS was a Robert Zankishiev, the Islamists maintain. Zankishiev was killed in a security operation on Nov. 10, 2015.
"The whole world is now fighting against ISIS and nobody is too keen to admit that they belong to that [terrorist group] or in any way support it," the former head of the now defunct Siberian Military District and of the Defense Ministry's contingent in Chechnya, Maj-Gen. Sergei Kanchukov, told RBTH.
However, he said, the Russian security agencies are unlikely to make claims like these until they have been verified: There must have been reliable information that Kabardino-Balkar residents are indeed in Syria and have joined terrorist forces there.
"I don't think that the special operation was planned much in advance. The law-enforcement agencies may have learned about that hideout some time ago but decided to raid it when the whole gang got together or when there were tip-offs of terrorist attacks being prepared," said Kanchukov.
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