MOSCOW — -- Russian security services have arrested seven people accused of plotting terror attacks on behalf of the Islamic State in major Russian cities, the country’s FSB intelligence agency said today.
The arrests were made in the city of Ekaterinburg, located in the Urals region on the edge of Siberia, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation said in a written statement.
The agency said the group was planning to carry out "high-profile attacks" using improvised explosives on Moscow, St. Petersburg and in the area around Ekaterinburg. During searches of the group’s houses, agents found a bomb-making laboratory, including explosives and detonators, as well as guns and grenades, according to the statement. Officers also allegedly found banned extremist writings.
Those arrested have been charged with plotting a terrorist act, as well ammunition trafficking and illegally storing explosives.
The members of the group were Russian citizens, as well as from Central Asian states, the FSB said, although the agency did not specify which countries. The group was being led by an alleged Islamic State militant recently arrived from Turkey, implying he may have returned from Syria.
Russian security services have been on high alert for attacks from Russian fighters returning from Syria, particularly since Moscow launched its air campaign there in support of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s government in September.
In the past two years, hundreds of Russian citizens have traveled to join the Islamic State -- also known as ISIS, or ISIL -- in Syria, mostly coming from the North Caucasus region where Russia has been waging a grinding counter-insurgency campaign against local jihadists for years.
The Islamic State has pledged to carry out terror attacks in Russia in revenge for Moscow’s military intervention in Syria. So far, the terror group has not succeeded in hitting the Russian homeland, although ISIS bomb brought down a Russian passenger airliner over Egypt in late-October, killing 224 people.
In the past few months, Russian security services have said they have interrupted a number of terror plots in Russia, and have arrested and killed militants they accuse of belonging to ISIS.