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Around 1,700 Russian citizens fight alongside militants in Iraq — Russian security chief

February 20, 2015, 9:05 UTC+3
The number of Russians among militants in Iraq has risen twice over the past year
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WASHINGTON, February 20. /TASS/. Around 1,700 Russian citizens are fighting alongside militants in Iraq, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov said during his working visit to the United States.

Bortnikov, who took part in a summit in Washington on countering violent extremism, said the number of Russians among militants in Iraq has almost doubled compared with 800 last year.

The FSB chief stressed that he is concerned by rising recruitment numbers and prospects of those militants' eventually returning to Russia.

Bortnikov said tough measures of impact are certainly needed, while stating that the government has to learn how to influence this process and force people to abandon their plans.

Speaking on Iraq and Syria, he said what is happening there is a "religious conflict." "Muslims are fighting against Muslims and are killing Muslims," he said, noting the importance of understanding the reasons and ideas that push people towards extremist actions.

Bortnikov also said Muslims should understand their responsibility and search for the way out of the crisis.

"It is very important that various countries of the world and leaders of states should adopt such an approach that in the dialogue with everyone, namely the representatives of the Muslim world, there is a need to try to find the way out of the situation," he added.

The conference in Washington on February 18-19 was attended by the representatives of 65 countries and 10 international organisations, including the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the League of Arab States.

Bortnikov led the Russian delegation at the event.

Recruting via Internet

Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee points to the present-day growing tendency of converts joining terrorism organizations, i.e. when religious extremists are joined by people of other religious beliefs after converting to another religion.

Andrey Przhezdomsky, a spokesman for the committee, told a news conference in December that besides people from Russia’s North Caucasus, terrorist groups were also joined by the so-called "neophytes," who converted to another religion and “they are all currently either on wanted lists or subjected to investigations.”

Przhezdomsky said the recruiters were well trained people, but “the main recruiter as of today is Internet.” According to him, Internet currently boasts “at least 10,000 resources” oriented on terrorism ideology.

“Half a thousand of them are in the Russian language, having youth as their targeted audience,” Przhezdomsky said. “Eighty percent of users are below the age of 30 years, but there are children as well.”

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