MOSCOW: Russia’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday its agents had detained 15 radical Muslims in Moscow who belonged to a banned offshoot of the Al-Qaeda terror network.
The ministry said members of Takfir wal-Hijra, a group formed in Egypt in the 1960s and outlawed in Russia in 2010, had been discovered hiding weapons and explosives in their apartments but provided few other details.
It said the group had been funding its activities by “conducting general crime.”
Takfir wal-Hijra was quashed in Egypt in the 1970s but is believed to have cells linked to Al-Qaeda in several European and other countries.
Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency said the banned organization’s activities were first discovered in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine about five years ago.
But RIA Novosti said experts doubted whether Takfir wal-Hijra members in the region had actual links to the original organisation in Egypt or had simply assumed the name of a relatively well-known terror group.
Russia remains on heightened alert ahead of the Feb. 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that lies near the volatile North Caucasus.
A top guerrilla commander in the North Caucasus, who has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly suicide bombings in Moscow, has threatened to target the Sochi Games.