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Russia’s FSB chief warns IS, Al-Qaeda could merge

There are more than 200 terrorist groups in the world, says the secretary of Russia’s Security Council

MOSCOW, November 7. /TASS/. Director of Russia’s Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov has warned that the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terror groups (outlawed in Russia) could merge.

"International terrorist organizations Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State could unite their potentials and we view this as a rather serious step, which may result in numerous negative consequences. There are a number of signs indicating their possible merger," Bortnikov told the 17th meeting of the heads of special services, security agencies and law enforcement bodies.

"Both international terrorist organizations use a similar ideological basis and common manpower for replenishing each other’s units. Many terrorists, despite the facts of armed conflicts between the Al-Qaeda and the IS group’s units, are switching from one terrorist structure to another being guided by the motives of personal benefits, changes on the battlefield and other reasons," he noted.

Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev also believes that "the switch to the network organization model based on regional branches may push the IS group’s leadership to rejoin Al-Qaeda, which is interested in replenishing its forces and means for bolstering terrorist activity."

"The emergence of this alliance poses a significant threat to international security since it allows these two terrorist organizations to control more efficiently the activity of their regional branches and affiliated structures," Patrushev told the meeting.

"There are more than 200 terrorist groups currently in the world," he noted. "Among the largest of them are IS, Al-Qaeda, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, Boko Haram and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham. The named groups committed about one-third of the total number of terror attacks in 2017."

About 100 states were affected by terrorism in 2017-2018, the Security Council secretary said. "The Middle East, Afghanistan, South and Southeast Asia and the African Continent remain major terrorist hotspots," he stressed. The imminent liquidation of the remaining terror flashpoints in Syria and Iraq makes foreign mercenaries leave these zones, returning to their countries, or create new sources of instability, Patrushev said. "Terrorists still chiefly target countries with weakened governance structures, vast hardly controlled territories, sharp confessional or ethnic contingencies and a high level of poverty and unemployment," the Russian Security Council secretary noted.

Militants are changing their tactics by joining local radical groups, he said. "Closed national communities and groups can be seen emerging across the world, in which organized criminal groups are often created," he added. "So-called sleeper cells are also operating, which recruit new members and collect funds externally, without violating laws."

Patrushev has warned against using terrorists to achieve geopolitical goals and dividing militants into good and bad ones.

"If we want to fight this evil [terrorism] effectively, it is essential to abandon double standards and stop dividing terrorists into bad and good and using them to achieve one’s own geopolitical goals," he stressed speaking at a meeting of the heads of special services, security and law enforcement agencies. "Events of recent years have shown that the time has come for specific steps rather than bombastic political statements."

Patrushev recalled that Russia had always called for pooling the global community’s efforts in the fight against terrorism under the UN's supervision. He described the work aimed at ensuring the safety of the Russia-hosted FIFA World Cup when all terror attacks had been thwarted as a positive outcome of such cooperation.

IS' cells

Russia’s security services have uncovered 38 cells of the Islamic State, whose members were recruiting militants, in 2018, Director of Russia’s Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov has said.

"In cooperation with foreign counterparts, 70 cells of international terrorist organizations, including 38 ISIL (former name of IS -TASS) cells, which recruited young people from Russia and CIS countries and transported them to militant training camps, have been uncovered in 24 regions of our country in 2018," he said at the 17th meeting of chiefs of special services, security and law enforcement agencies of the FSB partner nations.

"A total of 777 active members and abettors of international terrorist organizations, including 36 leaders, have been detained," the FSB director added.