Russian law enforcement agencies have established the identity of four Russian nationals involved in the fighting in Syria, the Russian Interior Ministry in the North Caucasus Federal District announced on February 2.
The press service of the North Caucasus Federal District police force said in a statement that all four individuals were came from North Caucasus republics.
One of the individuals, a 24-year-old resident of Gikalo in the Grozny Region of Chechnya, allegedly recruited three men from Ingushetia to an "illegal armed group" in October 2013. Since then, all four men have allegedly been fighting in Syria, the statement said.
No further information was provided, including details of which group in Syria the four individuals are allegedly fighting with, or whether they were recruited in the North Caucasus or elsewhere.
It is not known how many people from the North Caucasus are fighting in Syria. However, there is ample evidence to show that militants from across the region -- mostly from Daghestan and Chechnya -- are present in a number of armed Islamist groups in Syria, including the Islamic State (IS) group. Other groups in which they are fighting include Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA), which is based in Aleppo province and considers itself to be the Syrian affiliate of the North Caucasus-based militant group, the Caucasus Emirate; and the Latakia-based factions Junud al-Sham, and Jamaat Khalifat.
Kadyrov Blames CIA
The announcement that Russian security authorities in the North Caucasus have identified four militants from the region in Syria comes after the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, blamed Western intelligence agencies for recruiting Russian nationals to fight with Islamic State.
Kadyrov claimed on January 31 via his Instagram account that Western intelligence bodies, including the CIA, were using social media to recruit young Russians.
The Chechen leader made his claim following a meeting with Chechen government representatives, Russian State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov, Chechen Mufti Salah Mezhiyev, and a group of Chechen bloggers.
"The young people said that frontmen from Western intelligence agencies were actively working on social networks to recruit young people into ranks created by them in [the IS group] and other terrorist organizations," Kadyrov said.
He added that government staff and bloggers were "actively resisting these attempts and explaining to young people that they are being lured into the ranks of bloody terrorists whose aim it is to destroy Islamic countries."
Noting that the fighting in Syria had led to "hundreds and thousands of casualties and the destruction of Islamic shrines," Kadyrov blamed the West.
"The ringleaders of these gangs are the CIA and other intelligence agencies," Kadyrov asserted.
The Chechen leader's comments are not the first time that he has blamed the United States and its Western allies for the rise of Islamic State. However, in these latest remarks, Kadyrov has taken a step further by accusing the West of a plot to recruit Russian nationals.
In January, Kadyrov said that the United States had "thought up" the war in Syria "in order to destroy individual countries, to denigrate Islam to the whole world" and that the West had "given birth to a new project, [IS group leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi."
In comments last week, Kadyrov urged Chechens fighting in Syria to come home and turn themselves in to the authorities, noting that Chechnya did not need "participants in a war organized by the American CIA."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk