Experts urge all-out struggle against radical Islam in Russia

Special security officers arrest Takfir Wal-Hijra extremists. Source: RIA Novosti

Special security officers arrest Takfir Wal-Hijra extremists. Source: RIA Novosti

Security analysts express concern after 15 heavily armed members of the At-Takfir Wal-Hijra were arrested by the Moscow police.

The detention of militant Islamists in Moscow last week has dealt a hard blow on terrorism, but experts believe tougher fight against militant religious groups is an urgent need. They do not exclude one of the reasons why extremism has scaled up is some terrorists seek to avenge Russia for its firm stance on Syria.

On Wednesday night Moscow police detained 15 armed Islamic terrorists, members of the outlawed extremist organization At-Takfir Wal-Hijra. They were armed with three explosive devices, handguns, hand grenades, cartridges and extremist literature.

The police traced the terrorists after detaining a number of members of ethnic criminal communities that had given money to buy weapons and explosives for the now arrested fanatics. The terrorist group consisted of natives of the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, and also of Turkmenistan. According to the police, they had been recruiting new members, including Slavs (neophytes), for their further conversion to Islam. The police have found out that at least one of the group's members had come to Moscow from an Arab state, where he had had a long course in Islam. He established a jamaat (underground organization) in Moscow and recruited some natives of the North Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Central Asia and also ethnic Russians.

The arrested criminals had committed a number of thefts, robberies and other felonies, including the trafficking of banned drugs and smoking blends. They sold the stolen items in the North Caucasus and used the cash raised to buy weapons and explosives.

This has not been the first detention of extremists in Moscow recently. A member of the At-Takfir Wal-Hijra, who is believed to have recruited several young women, was arrested in the Moscow Region’s town of Balashikha on November 5. Last Thursday police in cooperation with the Russian federal security service FSB detained an ethnic criminal group specializing in illegal banking transactions. The criminals financed militants’ operations.

The At-Takfir Wal-Hijra was established in Egypt in early 1970s. It is one of the most militant of the international Islamic terrorist groups. The organization advocates total split from the modern Islamic society, which it considers heretic. The members of the group are to sever any links with society and the state. They are prohibited from maintaining relationships with people recognized as infidels. In September 2010 the Supreme Court of Russia ruled At-Takfir Wal-Hijra was an extremist group and banned its operations in Russia.

Such organizations are dangerous in that they are “a platform for terrorism”, the Director of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, is quoted by the Novye Izvestia daily as saying. He believes Islam's radicalization in Russia “has gone extremely far, though not as far as in Europe, which has to deal with extremists from Pakistan, Arab countries and Africa.”

“Ten years ago the At-Takfir Wal-Hijra was hardly heard of in the territory of the former USSR, but about five years ago reports came out some affiliates emerged in a number of the CIS countries,” the head of the Centre for Asia and the Middle East at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Yelena Suponina, is quoted by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily as saying. She believes the detained are not linked to the Egyptian chapter of the At-Takfir Wal-Hijra - they “just use the name of one of the well-known radical Arab organizations.”

“The organization’s active operations are the reason for concern,” Middle East expert Semyon Bagdasarov said on the Kommersant FM radio station. One or two hundreds of militants can pose a real danger to the national security, he believes. Furthermore, “they are actively promoting Islam not only among Muslims, but also among non-Muslim population.”

The expert is sure countermeasures against such radical militants should be redoubled: “There is already a Salafist ideology that served as the basis of Takfirism - the most extreme form of Salafism. These groups have to be fought with now. Otherwise they will grow far and wide tomorrow.”

Growing extremist activity in Russia is a reaction to the events in Syria, Bagdasarov believes.

“By the most conservative estimates, out of the 70,000 - 80,000 militants fighting against the Syrian government 30,000 - 40,000 are radical Islamic terrorists, including Takfiris, among them some Russians and citizens of other CIS countries.”

“They will come back, they are coming back already,” the expert warned. “We have carried out no active ideological work against radical Islam over the past two decades. We have merely reacted to the consequences of terror attacks. Now we are reaping what we sowed.”

First published by Itar-Tass.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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