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Russia busts IS bomber cell – Possible return of jihadists ahead of World Cup

MOSCOW, Dec 12, (Agencies): Russia’s top domestic security agency says it has detained three suspected members of a sleeper cell of the Islamic State group who have been preparing suicide bombings in Moscow.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Tuesday that the suspects were plotting a series of suicide attacks in the Russian capital during the New Year’s holidays and the presidential election campaign. The FSB said the suspects, who came from ex- Soviet nations in Central Asia, were manufacturing self-made explosive devices. Monday’s search in their rented apartment outside Moscow found explosives along with assault rifles and hand grenades. FSB director Alexander Bortnikov said another IS cell was uncovered in the southern Stavropol region.

In April, a suicide bombing in St Petersburg’s subway left 16 dead and wounded more than 50. Meanwhile, Russia’s security service on Tuesday said it was on alert for the possible return of jihadists from Syria ahead of the World Cup and the presidential election in 2018.

The FSB’s warning came after the Russian military last week declared Syria “liberated” from the Islamic State group, and after a visit on Monday by President Vladimir Putin to Russia’s airbase in the war-ravaged country.

Russia first intervened in the Syrian confl ict in 2015, staging air strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad which targeted both IS and other jihadists as well as rebels fighting government troops. As many as 40,000 fighters traveled from all over the world, including Russia, to join IS in Russia after the 2014 declaration of its self-styled “caliphate” straddling Syria and Iraq. In 2015, Russian security services estimated that 2,900 Russian citizens had joined IS, as well as “several thousands” from Central Asia.

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