A total of nine individuals from Russia's North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria have died fighting in Syria since the armed insurgency began in that country in 2011, a representative from the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Kabardino-Balkaria said this week.
According to the Caucasian Knot website, the FSB representative made his comments during a parliamentary hearing in Kabardino-Balkaria on February 10.
The representative said that around 80 Kabardino-Balkaria residents were fighting in Syria, and that criminal cases had been opened against 28 of them.
"Twelve people have returned from the conflict zone, three of whom were neutralized [killed], three were arrested and the others are being sought. Another eight residents of the republic have undergone training in various militant training camps abroad," the FSB representative was quoted as saying.
The FSB representative warned that the republic should expect the return of militants from Syria and Iraq to exacerbate the security situation in Kabardino-Balkaria.
Linking the projected return of militants from Syria and Iraq to organized crime in the republic, the FSB representative told the parliamentary hearing that In the northeast and central areas of the republic, there are two groups of militants numbering up to 13 members who extort money from businessmen.
In January, security authorities reported that a man shot dead in the republic's capital, Nalchik, had previously fought in Syria. The man, named as 21-year-old Alikhan Tochiyev, was alleged to have returned from Syria at the end of 2014.
The reports about Tochiyev came after a court in Kabardino-Balkaria in November 2014 convicted a 22-year-old man to four years in prison for fighting in Syria. The defendant, named as Murat Nagoyev, allegedly traveled to Syria via Egypt and then Turkey in late 2012. The Kabardino-Balkaria man admitted going to Syria but denied that he had participated in the armed conflict, saying that he had gone there to help protect the country's ethnic Circassian women and children.
A second man from Kabardino-Balkaria is also known to have gone to fight in Syria after traveling there via Egypt.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk