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CIS anti-terror center warns of terrorists’ rising interest in fuel and energy facilities

The problem of terrorist "sleeper cells" and search for people suspected of terrorism and extremism may become a threat for the Commonwealth of Independent States, according to the expert

YEREVAN, September 25. /TASS/. Terrorists have been showing an increased interest in fuel and energy facilities, and the latest drone attack in Saudi Arabia confirms this, Head of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Anti-Terrorism Center Andrei Novikov said on Wednesday.

"We see a mounting interest of terrorist organizations in fuel and energy infrastructure facilities, which are an independent element of strategic security for any state. One of many proofs is the drone attack on oil refineries in Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia overnight to September 14, as a result of which oil output was halved and international commitments on supplies were put in jeopardy," Novikov told the opening of the meeting of heads of anti-terrorism departments of the CIS security and intelligence services Ararat Anti-Terror 2019.

According to Novikov, the overall energy potential of CIS countries is nearly 8% of global proved oil reserves and some 33% of global gas reserves.

"The global nature of energy and its significant impact on other global economy areas require serious attention to addressing flaws in protecting critical infrastructure facilities in this sector," the head of the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center stressed. In this regard, security agencies, intelligence services and law enforcement agencies need to develop a single mechanism for protecting fuel and energy facilities from terrorism and extremism-related threats. So, the key task of this meeting and the exercises is how to uncover the signs of preparations for terrorist attacks at fuel and energy facilities and counter them amid the increased activity of international terrorist organizations.

Saudi Aramco’s two biggest oil facilities in Abqaiq and in Khurais in the east of Saudi Arabia were struck by ten drones in the small hours of September 14. As a result of blasts and subsequent fires, Saudi Arabia’s oil production dropped by 5.7 mln barrels a day.

Yemeni Houthi rebels from the Ansar Allah movement claimed responsibility for the attack. Nevertheless, the United States and Saudi Arabia placed the blame on Iran, arguing that the Houthi don’t possess the types of drones and missiles used to stage the attack. Tehran dismissed these accusations as groundless.

"Sleeper cells"

The problem of forming a network of "sleeper cells" of terrorist organizations and searching for people suspected of terrorism and extremism may become a threat to almost all countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Andrei Novikov told the meeting.

"System analysis of the terrorism activity that is developing amid large-scale geoeconomical and geopolitical events made it possible for us and our partners to single out a problem pool which may grow into threats for almost all the states of the Commonwealth," Novikov stated. "Here we include the problem of forming a network of the so-called sleeper cells that are formed of groups of people both returning from active combat zones and being involved in terrorist and extremist activity in their motherland."

The head of the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center noted the problem of the identification and search for people who committed terrorist and extremist crimes and who flee from justice, and the problem of the technologization of terrorism.

The meeting will sum up the results of the first stage of the joint anti-terrorism drills Ararat Anti-Terror 2019 of the CIS states’ relevant bodies and will see the second and third stages of the drills. Thus, units of Armenia’s National Security Service will carry out a counter-terrorism operation on the release of hostages and elimination of terrorists in Gazprom Armenia during the second stage. On Thursday, the Armed Forces, the police and the border forces will carry out a special operation to block and eliminate illegal armed gangs and terrorist groups as part of the third stage of the drills. The effects of the terror attack will also be removed involving the Armenian Emergencies Ministry.

Since 2001, 15 such exercises have been carried out under the aegis of the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center. The drills are being carried out in Armenia for the second time. In 2006, they were conducted at the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant.

The first stage of the drills

Under the drills’ scenario, international terrorist organizations dispatch militants from the Syrian-Iraqi zone to the territory of the CIS countries, forming "sleeper cells" out of them. Investigative operations to detect militants in migration flows and channels for illegal trafficking of arms and explosives designed for terrorist attacks took place in Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on September 9-13.

In the course of the drills the intelligence services suppressed the activity of an undercover terrorist network of 26 terror attack plotters, detained them and confiscated weapons.