41 people, 12 women among them, were transported from territories occupied by ISIS in Syria to Grozny, Chechnya on November 13. This is the largest group of people evacuated from Syria to Russia, according to TASS. Among the evacuated are alleged wives of ISIS militants originally from Bashkortostan, Oryol, Dagestan, Chechnya and also people from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Three of these women have been detained by Dagestan police, marking the first time the “returnee” wives of ISIS militants were made accountable.
According to senator Ziyad Sabsabi, representative of the Head of Chechen Republic in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the women were very much aware of the risks. “They knew, what would come: if they had violated the law before escaping the Russian Federation, and they had been charged, they must be held accountable. They all signed on the fact that they return of their own free will and may have to be held accountable if necessary. We asked them whether they would want to send their children to Russia and stay themselves. No one wanted to do that,” said Sabsabi.
The Russian state media’s video shows the evacuation:
In the last four months more than 50 people returned from Iraq and Syria, with 35 of them being children. In 2015 Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs reported tracking more than 2.8 Russian citizens who left the country in order to fight in Syria and Iraq, with 889 returnees reportedly involved in criminal cases.
Dr Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University and of the Program on Radicalisation and International Terrorism at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan, considers that former ISIS militants are a serious threat to European states, including Russia, and especially Tunisia, where six thousand militants returned to — more than anywhere in the world.
According to Vidino, most of militants would return to EU legally, using their genuine passports. European authorities are occupied with filtering them out, and with integrating the proper returnees (mostly the escaped wives and children of the militants). The result is that authorities are overwhelmed, having to monitor hundreds of battle-hardened fighters, on top of the burgeoning number of home-grown IS sympathisers, in an attempt to determine which pose an immediate security threat.
According to Rais Suleimanov, an expert at Institute of National Strategy, the returning militants from Syria and Iraq back “home” to their countries and regions may use the skills they learned to commit new acts of terror. “Both Washington and Moscow almost simultaneously confirmed the fact that the terrorists have access to chemical weapons. There must be grounds for this,” said Suleimanov. “A lot of experts note that Afghanistan may become the new hotspot for the terrorists. Nevertheless, no matter where would the terrorists start their new “jihad”, there will be threat of them possessing mass destruction weapons.”