Security authorities in Chechnya have released the names of nine individuals from the republic who are believed to be fighting in Syria.
A source from Chechnya's Interior Ministry told the Caucasian Knot news website on March 25 that the nine Chechen men had been identified "as the result of events in recent weeks." The source did not specify what those events were.
Of the nine Chechens, one had been in Syria since June 2013. That individual was identified as Zelimkhan Bisiyev from the village of Melchu-Khe, just south east of Gudermes.
The remaining eight militants traveled to Syria in the summer and fall of 2014, according to the Interior Ministry source.
Two of the eight are Grozny natives, the source said. They were named as Movsar Beluyev aged 39 and Islam Gonikayev.
Another two men were named as Haseyn Abubakarov and Mansur Saydulayev aged 20 from the Kurchaloyevsky District in eastern Chechnya.
The remaining militants were named as Turpal Bukhiyev from Gudermes; Magomed Magomadov from the village of Assinovskaya in the Sunzhensky district; Ismail Gapurov from Duba-Yurt village in the Shalinsky district; and Akhmed Chatayev from Vedeno.
Chatayev, a native of Chechnya who was granted asylum by Austria, appeared in a video published in February by a North Caucasus group within IS. Also known as Akhmed Al-Shishani, Chatayev was arrested and acquitted by a Georgian court in 2013 in connection with the so-called Lopota Gorge incident of 2012. He now heads a Russian-speaking Islamic State (IS) brigade known as the Yarmouk Battalion.
The Interior Ministry source said that the nine men faced charges in accordance with Russia's Criminal Code, under clauses relating to participation in illegal armed groups in a foreign state.
The Interior Ministry source also told the Caucasian Knot that an additional two men who had returned to Chechnya after fighting in Syria had been arrested in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in February. The two were named as 19-year-old Tamerlan Dokayev and 27-year-old Imran Elzhurkayev.
Dokayev had been in Syria from the fall of 2014 until February, while Elzhurkayev had been there since 2013. Both returned to Chechnya via Turkey and were arrested in their homes, the Interior Ministry source said.
That the Chechen Interior Ministry named eight men as having left Chechnya to fight within the last year is significant, as it implies both that militant groups in Syria are still recruiting fighters from the Chechen Republic, and that it is still possible for potential militants to travel from Chechnya to the Middle East to join the Islamic State (IS) group and other factions.
That fact flies in the face of claims by Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, that ethnic Chechen militants in Syria are coming from Chechen diaspora communities in Europe, not via Chechnya itself.
The naming of the nine men is the latest sign that Russia's security authorities are concerned about residents of the North Caucasus becoming radicalized, going to fight in Syria, and potentially returning to join militant groups at home.
Earlier this month, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Kremlin's Security Council, said the Kremlin is concerned about links between the Islamic State (IS) group and militants in the North Caucasus.
Experts and rights defenders said that counterterrorism operations conducted in Daghestan on March 15-16 were a result of Patrushev's comments about the threat posed by IS to the region.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said last month that as many as 1,700 Russian nationals are fighting alongside militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk