In this undated video grab provided by the RU-RTR Russian television via APTN on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, Russian FSB officers arrest a man on suspicion of plotting a series of attacks outside Moscow, Russia. Russia’s main intelligence agency said on Monday it has foiled a plot led by two Soviet-born militants fighting for the Islamic State group in Syria. The FSB did not say when the arrests took place. (AP)

MOSCOW: Russia’s FSB security service said yesterday that it had captured a gang planning major attacks on Moscow transport networks and shopping centers, directed by members of the Islamic State jihadist group from Syria. Security officers detained members of the group outside Moscow as they plotted “a series of terrorist attacks in crowded public places including on public transport and in major shopping centers in Moscow using suicide bombers and powerful explosive devices,” the FSB said.

It said it had determined that the attacks were being organized by IS warlords and emissaries who are in Syria, which it identified as TM Nazarov and AM Shirindzhonov. Media outlets in Tajikistan reported this month that a man named Todzhiddin Nazarov, also known as Abu Osama Noraka, had appeared in IS video statements from Syria posted on pro-jihadist sites. The FSB said officers raided a bomb-making laboratory outside Moscow and captured the group’s coordinator, an IS emissary in Russia, as well as an explosives expert and two potential suicide bombers, it said.

It said that four people were captured, three from Central Asian states and one a Russian citizen. Russia’s Rossiya 24 state television showed FSB footage of the raid on a house in which plainclothes officers are seen pinning two young men wearing black rucksacks to the floor and handcuffing them. It also showed what it said was equipment used to mix chemicals. Russia regularly announces that it has foiled major terrorist attacks, and recently has emphasized the threat from former Soviet countries in Central Asia, where large numbers of the Muslim-majority populations have gone to fight alongside IS. The FSB said in July that it had detained seven nationals from Central Asia who were “preparing terrorist attacks” in Saint Petersburg, where 15 were killed in a metro bombing in April.

Turkey officer killed by IS suspect
Elsewhere, Istanbul’s police chief yesterday hailed as a hero a 24-year-old officer stabbed to death by a suspected member of the Islamic State (IS) group, who had been arrested for allegedly planning a suicide attack. Sinan Acar was attacked with a knife by the suspect, who has not been named, after the man was brought by car for questioning to the headquarters of Istanbul police late Sunday.

Acar later died of his wounds while the suspected IS member was shot dead on the spot by other police officers. Speaking at a funeral ceremony for the slain officer, police chief Mustafa Caliskan said Acar and his colleagues had prevented a potentially significant attack by arresting the suspect. “The man arrested was someone who was the subject of an international search,” said Caliskan. “We think that a very serious attack was prevented.”

“It must be known that in this country people like Sinan will live on,” he said at the ceremony also attended by Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin. It was not immediately clear how the suspect managed to keep a knife while being taken into custody. At the funeral, Acar’s mother, overcome by emotion, was supported by a female police officer, an AFP correspondent said. He will later be buried in his native Bursa region.

Turkey was hit in 2016 by a succession of attacks that left hundreds dead in the bloodiest year of terror strikes in its history. The attacks were blamed on IS jihadists as well as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who have battled the Turkish state in an insurgency lasting more than three decades. Last month anti-terror officers in Istanbul detained dozens of alleged IS members, several of whom were said to be preparing a “sensational attack” in Turkey, police said.

An attack by a jihadist gunman on an elite nightclub in Istanbul just 75 minutes into New Year’s Day in 2017 left 39 people dead, mainly foreigners. There has since been a lull in similar attacks, but tensions and high security remain in big cities. Turkey was in the last years criticised by NATO allies for not doing more against the rise of IS but recent months have seen near daily raids on the group’s cells inside the country. – AFP