MOSCOW - A unit of the Russian security forces is training to counter Islamist militants amid fears fighters in Syria will return to join insurgents in the North Caucasus, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader said.
The Kremlin fears Russian-born militants will return from Syria to join those who want to carve out an Islamic state in Chechnya and other mostly Muslim provinces in the mountains on Russia's southern fringe.
Officials have said 400 Russians are fighting with al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria. Experts estimate the numbers are much higher. Some Chechens, veterans of two post-Soviet wars against Russian rule, have emerged as Syrian rebel leaders.
"These bandits post videos daily claiming that after Syria they will migrate to the North Caucasus and engage in terrorist and subversive activities," Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in a statement posted on the regional government's website late on Wednesday.
"We cannot sit quietly listening to these threats and wait for this plague to move toward Russia ... so the police and the republic's leadership are taking preventative measures."