Jihadists from Russia’s Caucasus region are fighting alongside the rebels in Syria, and their numbers are growing. About 200 fighters from Dagestan have joined the battle against Assad, says the head of the regional branch of Russia’s security agency, the Associated Press reports. And just a few hours up the road from Dagestan, construction and planning for the 2014 Olympics continues.
“These people go there [Syria] and they will come back tomorrow with the backing of international extremist and terrorist organizations,” the acting president of Dagestan said at a meeting of local officials on Friday.
Russia has promised to make the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi “the safest in history,” and the Kremlin has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Games, but already jihadists have vowed to attack. Earlier this month a top jihadist urged his followers to use “maximum force” against targets in Sochi.
“Dagestan has become the epicenter of the Caucasus insurgency, with rebels mounting nearly daily attacks on police and other officials,” the AP reports. Calming this region before the Olympics is very important to President Putin, and it provides a rationale for his staunch support for the Assad regime in Syria. The Kremlin fears creeping Sunni radicalism; it fears terrorists from the Caucasus getting training, weapons, money, and support down south and then returning home to attack the Olympic Games. With UN officials warning that the Syria war could drag on for years, Moscow will have to hope the Russian jihadists stay there and don’t return.
[Image of Doku Umarov courtesy Wikimedia]