Russia Update: FSB Claims to Have Foiled Plot by Syria-Trained Russian Terrorists

October 12, 2015
No. 5 Strelbishchensky Street in Moscow where terrorist suspects were said to be detained with explosives. The name of the street means "Shooting Range." Google Street View, 2014.

Russian intelligence claims to have foiled a plot by Russian terrorists trained in Syria to bomb public transport.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

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Apartment of Alleged Islamist Terrorists in Moscow Stormed by FSB Reported to Be Occupied by Chechen GRU Colonel

As we reported earlier today, Russian security police stormed an
apartment in central Moscow, arresting a number of suspected Islamic militants planning a terrorist attack, later reported as 15 in total.

Among them are said to be 12 Russian citizens native to the North Caucasus or Central Asia and allegedly 3 Syrians, says Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) reported that there was no official confirmation of the identification of 3 of the suspects as “Syrian citizens,” and a misunderstanding could have occurred because law-enforcers nickname Russian militants trained in Syria as Siriitsy (“Syrians”) — similar to the way in which veterans of the war in Afghanistan are called “Afghans.”

MK reports that the owner of the Moscow apartment stormed by the FSB said today was it occupied by a GRU colonel from Chechnya. Three militants were killed and at least 14 detained in the operation on Strelbashchinsky Lane in central Moscow, 8 km from the Kremlin — the name of the street means “Shooting Range.”

The terrorists were planning to set off a bomb in the metro or at the airport “similar to the one used in the terrorist attack in Ankara,” although they planned to detonate it with a cell phone rather than via a suicide bomber.

MK reports that the apartment is located on the 9th floor at no. 5, section 3 of Strelbashchinsky Lane. It was a one-room apartment of 30 square meters and was registered to Andrei R. (his last name was concealed), a 58-year-old Muscovite who formerly worked in the accounting department of the Defense Ministry and is now on a pension. His wife, Elena (whose name has been changed) put MK in touch with local authorities.

MK said the retired Defense Ministry worker Andrei P. was in the finance department no. 190 in a Defense Ministry agency responsible for arms production quality control during the period the Ministry was headed by Anatoly Serdyukov, who was first fired and jailed on corruption charges, then released last year. MK was unable to discover whether Andrei kept his job after Serdyukov’s dismissal or not.

Elena said she allowed the man, whom they had known since 1999, to live in the apartment rent-free as he had once helped her husband and the apartment was empty anyway. He in turn asked if a certain Said and his wife and young daughter from Chechnya could live in the apartment. Elena’s son, age 24, said he talked with Said and said he was a colonel in the GRU, and drove a Hummer valued at 4 million rubles.

Elena said she had not met the people living in the apartment and acknowledged she did not like the fact that they were Chechens, despite her son’s report that they were “nice people” who kept the hallway orderly and “chased away all the alcoholic bums.”  She then noted (translated by The Interpreter):

One thing caused me to worry — in September, Said called and asked me to allow him to give the key to the apartment to his nephew, Musa, while he was on vacation in Turkey. Who this Musa was, what he was doing in Moscow, I have no idea. As far as I know, he has been living there recently.

She said the police didn’t call her about the raid — she read about it on the Internet and then called the police herself. Investigators questioned her, but she didn’t know much about her original tenant’s friends. She theorized that Said may have concocted the plot in order to then expose it and get a raise at his job. “This entire situation looks improbable,” she commented.

The FSB has not provided any further details about the operation except to say that the suspects were Russian citizens trained in Syria (and included Syrian citizens themselves) and possessed explosives. The storming was similar to dozens of such incidents in the North Caucasus in recent years where Islamist militants suspected of terrorism are killed, but in most cases little is known about their identities or actions.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Security Kills 3 Militants, Detains 4 in Operation in Ingushetia Said to Intercept Planned Terrorist Attack

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC) has announced that three militants have been killed and four detained in a special operation in the Nazran District of Ingushetia that intercepted a planned terrorist attack, RosBalt reports.

Ingushetia is a republic in Russia’s North Caucasus adjacent to the Chechen Republic that has frequently suffered terrorist attacks.

Federal Security Service (FSB) forces blocked the village of Gazi-Yurt in Nazran District where the militants were said to be hiding.

According to an announcement from the NAC, “three bandits were neutralized and four members of a bandit group were detained” and the “active phase of the special operation is continuing.”

The Nazran group is said to be responsible for the murder of policemen and civilians and were planning a terrorist attack in Ingushetia.

The NAC said no police or civilians were injured in the operation.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Intelligence Claims to Have Foiled Terrorist Attack Planned by Russians Trained in Syria

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have foiled a terrorist attack reportedly planned by Russians trained in Syria, Russian news media reports.

Details are sketchy and the story has changed in the last few hours.

Interfax reported yesterday October 11 that the suspects were detained with a home-made explosive device at no. 5/section 3 of Strelbishchensky Lane in the Central Administration District of Moscow. About 100 people were evacuated during the operation.

The location is about 8 kilometers from the Kremlin.

2015-10-12 13:39:23

Translation: Those detained in Moscow for preparation of a terrorist attack went through training in ISIS camps – Center for Public Liaison/FSB/TASS.

Translation: Breaking: All those detained with a bomb in Moscow are Russian citizens. But they were trained by ISIS, the FSB reports.

The FSB has not specified how many persons have been detained or their identities. Earlier, there were reports of a dozen suspects detained, two of whom were said to confess to plans for a terrorist attack on public transport.

The apartment on Strelbishchensky Lane was said to be a location where “6 to 11 people periodically stayed.” Some of them were said to be trained in Syria and returned to Russia before the launch of air strikes September 30.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick