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Mother Says Russian Student Can't Shake Love For Her IS Recruiter

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

Varvara Karaulova attends a court hearing in Moscow on October 28.

Varvara Karaulova attends a court hearing in Moscow on October 28.

The mother of a Russian student suddenly arrested last week after initially escaping prosecution for alleged efforts to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group says her daughter is "psychologically dependent" on the man who tried to recruit her.

In a dramatic development, authorities remanded 19-year-old Varvara Karaulova in custody on suspicion of attempting to recruit people to join the brutal Islamist group, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq under its control.

According to the Russian media, Karaulova resumed contact with her own recruiter sometime after she returned to Russia from Turkey in June.

Karaulova has been remanded until December 23 in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, which is used in cases under the special control of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Karaulova's arrest on October 28 came as something of a shock to the Russian public. While the Muslim convert's alleged attempt to join IS dominated Russian headlines over the summer, in July an official from the Russian government's official National Investigative Committee (NIC) said no charges were to be brought against her.

"An examination of the possible involvement of Varvara Karaulova in the activities of an extremist group and her recruitment has been completed, and the decision was taken not to institute criminal proceedings," NIC spokesman Vladimir Markin said on July 23.

'In Love'

The exact details of the suspicions against Karaulova remain murky.

But some information began to emerge on October 30.

Karaulova in an undated file photo

Karaulova in an undated file photo

Interfax quoted Karaulova's mother, Kira Karaulova, as saying, "Her whole trouble is that she became dependent on her virtual lover (the recruiter), and she is unable to get rid of [her dependency] herself."

She added, "In my opinion, she is not quite conscious of her actions right now."

Russia's TASS news agency quoted a source "close to the investigation" as saying that Karaulova had remained in contact with her recruiter, and even said she was in love with him.

"I couldn't help myself and started to correspond with him," the source quoted the younger Karaulova as saying.

She reportedly told investigators that it was love, rather than political or religious views, that led her to resume contact with her recruiter.

The young woman is "cooperating with the investigation and giving detailed evidence," the source added.

'Recruiters'

Initial reports on October 27, a day before Karaulova was remanded in custody, said that her recruiters had also been arrested. But details of the arrests and the identities of those involved are even murkier than the exact suspicions around Karaulova.

Karaulova's lawyer, Aleksandr Karabanov, reportedly told journalists on October 27 that he had heard that three recruiters had been detained and arrested in Chechnya, a story that was widely reported and speculated upon in the Russian media.

But the Chechen officials denied that anyone involved in the Karaulova case had been arrested in Chechnya.

Chechen Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov told Interfax that neither his ministry nor the local FSB had any knowledge of related arrests in the republic.

"The question arises, what [source] was advocate Karabanov using when he announced the arrest of Karaulova's recruiters in Chechnya?" asked Alaudinov.

The speculation about the arrests of Karaulova's recruiters comes amid reports of a police search for a 33-year-old man from the Tatar village of Srednyaya Elyuzan in Penza Oblast.

Ilyas Bikmaev is suspected of recruiting Russians to join IS, possibly also Karaulova, a law-enforcement source told TASS on October 28.

Bikmaev is thought to have gone to Turkey in March but may now be in Russia, reports said.

Karaulova left home on May 27 and was arrested alongside 12 other Russians in Turkey, allegedly while attempting to cross into Syria.

Russian media said the former Moscow State University student has changed her name to Aleksandra Ivanova to avoid public attention.

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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