Islamic State fighters gesture as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
About 1,700 Russian nationals are fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State group in Iraq, according to the director of Russia's Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, International Business Times reported Friday.
Bortnikov couched this figure, which was half the current estimate just a year ago, in the context of the wider issue of foreign combatants fighting in the notorious jihadist group.
“At the moment, some 100 countries are involved in the Iraqi conflict. The number of [foreign] participants that are fighting alongside Islamic State has grown from 13,000 to 20,000 -- that is our estimate."
Moscow has been involved in numerous confrontations with its Muslim Chechen minority, finishing an almost decade long war against separatist elements in 2009. A combined total of approximately 16,000 Chechen militants and civilians were killed in that conflict.
Chechen Muslims have taken a prominent fighting role in some of the Islamic State's key operations due to their experience fighting the Russian military.
One example of the rising profile of Chechen fighters is the case of Omar al-Shishan. An ethnic Chechen who fought the Russians in 2008, Shishani became a important figure after leading some of the Islamic State's most daring and decisive missions in Syria, including the capture of the Syrian army's Minigh air-force base near Aleppo.
Russia's primary concern regarding foreign fighters primarily stems from the threat of Chechen Muslims returning with the training and resources to carry out terrorist attacks against the state, a scenario that has repeated itself many times in the past.
Russian state media also reported that Bortnikov, who was attending a counter-terrorism summit in Washington,as saying that Moscow and the White House may share intelligence to fight and defeat ISIS and that the general attitude at the conference aimed at not politicizing the issue of cooperation against terrorism.