As warnings continue to grow that the Islamic State group will likely try to strike the U.S. in the coming year, a Russian official warned Wednesday the terror group is gaining ground with its Russian-language propaganda materials. Russian officials said the increase highlights the group’s efforts to recruit from the broader region, including Central Asian states.
“According to experts, the Russian language is becoming, alongside Arabic and English, the main language of Daesh propaganda,” said Colonel General Andrei Novikov at the Commonwealth of Independent States Anti-Terrorist Center, using another name for the terrorist group, according to Russian-state backed media group Sputnik.
Novikov, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, called for greater international cooperation against the group, aka ISIS, and argued that Russian airstrikes in Syria were causing its recruits to abandon the area. No evidence was cited to back up this claim. Russia began the airstrikes at the end of September, and Western powers have accused the Kremlin of using them to hit opposition groups in order to prop up longtime ally Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russian authorities arrested seven ISIS suspects Sunday in the city of Yekaterinburg. The suspects, who were from both Russia and Central Asia, were plotting attacks against major cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, using “self-made explosives,” authorities stated.
It is estimated that several thousand fighters from both Russia and Central Asian states have gone to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS. Many of the fighters have been recruited from the North Caucasus region, including Chechnya and Dagestan, with fighters also coming from Azerbaijan and Georgia.
ISIS increased its Russian-language propaganda efforts over the summer with slickly packaged videos showing interviews with Russian fighters in Syria and Iraq, as well as using Russian subtitles, the Guardian reported. The terror group has also released videos directly targeting Russia, threatening that “very soon, the blood will spill.”