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IS terrorists defeated in Syria and Iraq still running global offshoots, says FSB chief

A serious threat is the so-called autonomous jihad when lone wolf terrorists or small groups carry out terror attacks themselves, the security chief stated
FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov Peter Kovalev/TASS
FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov
© Peter Kovalev/TASS

SOCHI, October 16. /TASS/. The Islamic State terrorist organization (outlawed in Russia), which has been crushed in Syria and Iraq, continues running its branches abroad and plans to set up divisions in a number of regions, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov said on Wednesday.

"Now major terrorist forces in Syria and Iraq have been defeated and their plans on creating a caliphate have been ruined," Bortnikov told a Sochi meeting of the heads of intelligence agencies, security services and law enforcement agencies from 79 countries.

"However, groups active there continue controlling their international branches, deploying terrorists with combat experience to other countries with the goal of creating sleeper cells and building new criminal networks there," Bortnikov claimed.

According to the FSB chief, terrorist organizations have been nurturing hopes of creating regional branches in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. "A process is underway on decentralizing ISIL [formerly the IS] activity and switching to a network principle of actions," he noted.

Another serious threat is the so-called autonomous jihad when lone wolf terrorists or small groups carry out terror attacks themselves, Bortnikov stressed.

Over 43,500 people involved in terrorism listed in the international counterterrorism database

Over 43,500 people involved in terrorism have been included in the international counterterrorism database created on the initiative of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), while a third of them are militants that fought in hotspots, the FSB director reported.

According to him, currently, the database "includes data on 116 terrorist organizations and 43,500 persons."

"Nearly a third of them are foreign terrorist militants," the FSB chief noted.

Bortnikov offered his colleagues from special services to use the database as one of the means of supporting counterterrorism activity. Forty-seven special services from 36 countries have access to the database by now, along with eight departments within international organizations, including the UN, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Interpol.

Among the goals of security cooperation, Bortnikov listed uncovering the plans of heads of terrorist organizations, determining the main routes of transporting foreign militants and their gathering places and obtaining information on every criminal, including their online profile. He added that the exchange of information must be carried out in real time.

He also called on the security services to detect commercial enterprises under the control of terrorists and to eliminate terrorist financing schemes via the Hawala system.

Problem of unwillingness of IT companies to cooperate with special services in cybersecurity

The head of the Russian Federal Security Service has highlighted the unwillingness of IT companies to cooperate with special services in cybersecurity as a serious issue, as messenger services are the main communication tool between criminals.

"With its global coverage, the Internet is becoming the main platform for promoting the ideology of terrorism, recruitment and dissemination of information on ways to carry out terrorist attacks. Online messengers with a high level of cryptosecurity are still the main means of communication between criminals," he stated.

"In this regard, we see the unwillingness of several leading IT companies to cooperate with special services in the sphere of information security as a serious issue," Bortnikov underscored.

According to him, currently, there is a rising threat of terrorists using wireless networks that do not depend on cellular service or Internet access when carrying out terrorist attacks.

Roughly 7,000 dead, wounded across the globe due to terrorism in 2019

About 7,000 people have been killed or wounded in terrorist attacks across the globe in 2019 alone, Alexander Bortnikov reported.

"International terrorist organizations have suffered substantial damage thanks to vigorous efforts by our countries' intelligence community. However, large international terrorist organizations, primarily ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, former name of the Islamic State, outlawed in Russia — TASS] and al-Qaeda have retained their capability to continue their criminal activities," Bortnikov stressed. "As a result, more than 1,500 attacks, which left about 7,000 people dead or wounded, have been carried out across the globe in 2019 alone."

This being so, intelligence services need to adjust their approach to the war on terror, increase the effectiveness of interaction, take concerted efforts, step up information sharing and intensify work in information environment, he noted.

Over 5,000 Russians who joined terrorists in hotspots identified

The Federal Security Service has identified more than 5,000 Russian nationals who travelled to hotspots to fight alongside terrorists, according to the FSB director. "More than 5,000 Russian citizens who travelled abroad to take part in the fighting alongside terrorists have been identified," Bortnikov said.

Criminal cases have been opened against almost 4,000 of them based on the obtained evidence.