MOSCOW - A unit of Russian security forces is training to fight Islamist militants battling in Syria on fears they may migrate from the Middle East conflict to join an insurgency in the North Caucasus, Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader said.
The Kremlin is worried that Russian-born militants will return to join insurgents 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 Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria, but experts estimate the numbers are much higher. Some Chechens, veterans of two post-Soviet wars against Russian rule, have emerged as leaders among Syrian rebels.
"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.