MOSCOW (AP) — More than 1,000 Russian nationals have joined the Islamic State group and they could pose a major threat when they return, Russia's Security Council chief said.
Nikolai Patrushev told the business daily Kommersant in an interview published Monday that they form "sleeper cells" and could mount terror attacks in the future on orders from their bosses.
"They can fully integrate into society, pretending to observe its norms and laws," he said. "But when it's needed, terrorist leaders could use such 'law-abiding citizens' for preparing or conducting terror attacks."
Patrushev said IS recruiters have been active in Russia and ex-Soviet Central Asian nations, particularly focusing on young people and members of ethnic minorities.
In one recent case, a 19-year-old student of the elite Moscow State University was detained in a Turkish border town. She and 12 other Russians were believed to be en route to Syria to join IS.
President Vladimir Putin said last week that despite the rift with the West over Ukraine, Russia considers it necessary to strengthen international cooperation in fighting IS, which he described as "absolute evil."
After two separatist wars in Chechnya, Russia is still facing an Islamic insurgency in several provinces of the North Caucasus where militants mount sporadic attacks on police and other officials.
In a video posted Monday on YouTube, a man reads a statement on behalf of the Caucasus rebels, pledging allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The man says the rebels based in Chechnya and three other North Caucasus provinces, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkariya, swear to obey al-Baghdadi's orders to establish Islamic Shariah law "across the entire Earth."
The video didn't provide any details, such as the number of fighters swearing the oath, or names of the leaders. Its veracity couldn't be independently confirmed.