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Up to 7,000 Russian and CIS nationals fighting on IS side — Syrian Grand Mufti

June 10, 2015, 16:59 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The Grand Mufti said that IS recruits most mercenaries from such CIS countries as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan
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© AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, File

MOSCOW, June 10. /TASS/. Around 70,000 foreign mercenaries are fighting alongside Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization militants in Syria, including 5,000-7,000 people from Russia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun told in an exclusive interview with TASS on Wednesday.

"From around the world, there are around 70,000 [mercenaries] fighting alongside them [Islamic State militants], with 5,000-7,000 people from Russia and CIS countries. Some of them come with their families, undergo training in Turkey, receive financing from Saudi Arabia and instruction from US and Great Britain," Hassoun, who arrived to Russia to take part in the Islamic World international conference, said.

The Grand Mufti said that IS recruits most mercenaries from such CIS countries as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

Hassoun discussed the situation in Syria with the head of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society Sergey Stepashin.

The religious leader noted that Moscow student Varvara Karaulova, recently detained by the Turkish authorities on the border with Syria and suspected of planning to join IS, is not the first such case. "People go there with their families. Hundreds and hundreds of families from Tatarstan, Kazakhstan, from other Russian regions and CIS countries go there to join IS," the Grand Mufti said, adding that he talked to some of them. "Several people turned themselves in. They said they were deceived. They were told that they will live in the Islamic caliphate. But they saw that those are just bandits fighting each other to steal more," Hassoun said.

Propagandistic work to recruit people is working very well, the religious leader added.

Stepashin in turn described as very successful the Syrian Grand Mufti’s recent visit to Russia’s Chechen Republic and his meeting with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. "There have been no reports about Chechen militants in IS since then," he noted.

Russian student planning to join IS

Varvara Karaulova, a 19-year old student of the Moscow State University, went missing on May 27 and later left for Istanbul. On June 2, Interpol joined the search for Karaulova and later detained the student on the Turkish-Syrian border along with 12 other Russian nationals. One of the versions suggests that Karaulova arrived in Turkey with ah aim to cross the border with Syria and join the Islamic State terrorist organization.

The problem of Islamic State’s recruiting allies is of a global scope and needs comprehensive approach with the leading role of the United Nations, Russian Foreign Ministry’s human rights ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov told Rossiya 24 television last week. This problem exists first of all among the youth, said the commissioner for human rights, democracy and supremacy of law. "Approaches to neutralizing this threat should be multi-lateral with the leading and coordinating role of the UN," the diplomat said commenting on the incident with Karaulova.

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