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Russian Official Says Most Of Recent Telephone Bomb Threats Came From Syria

People gather outside the Central Post Office after being evacuated due to an anonymous bomb threat call in Yekaterinburg in September.

A top Russian official has said that most of the phone calls conveying fake bomb threats that prompted evacuations recently in dozens of Russian cities came from Syria.

A spate of telephone bomb threats that proved to be hoaxes have targeted some 3,500 schools, shopping malls, airports, hotels, train stations, and other public buildings in 190 Russian cities, and led to the evacuation of more than 2.3 million people since September, Russian officials have said.

Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov told Russian news agencies on December 12 that most of the anonymous calls came from areas controlled by "terrorists" in Syria. He did not specify what groups or individuals might be involved.

Russia and Syria often refer to their Sunni rebel opponents in Syria's six-year civil war as "terrorists," including groups allied with Western countries and Arab states as well as extremist groups like Islamic State (IS).

Russia has waged a bombing campaign backing Syrian government forces in the war since September 2015. The war helped give rise to IS, which has recently lost most of the territory it once controlled in the country, while killing over 300,000 people and displacing millions more.

Zubov said not all the fake bomb threats came from Syria. He said some calls in what he described as a "cyberattack on the Russian Federation" came from Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, and Canada, and a few calls came from the ex-Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and Interfax