Russian security forces have arrested 15 suspected members of a banned Islamic organisation in Moscow after confiscating improvised bombs and other weapons in a raid on an apartment, the country’s interior ministry said.
A statement issued on Wednesday by the ministry said that the detainees were members of a group called Takfir Wal-Hijra, which was formed in Egypt in the late 1960s and was banned in Russia as a religious extremist organisation in 2010.
The ministry claimed the group that is linked to al-Qaeda was led by a man who had come to Moscow after studying in Arab states.
Russian national news channels aired a video footage, showing helmeted riot police burst into a high-rise block of flats and throw several men face down on the floor.
Police were shown opening plastic bags holding grenades and pistols as well as a heavy black object identified by one unnamed officer as an explosive belt.
Fourteen people were detained in the raid and the 15th was detained separately, the statement said.
The detainees included citizens of the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, people from Russia’s mostly Muslim North Caucasus and two ethnic Russians, the ministry said.
The interior ministry said the group had been funding its activities by “conducting general crime” in and around Moscow.
Russia has beefed up security in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, which it will be held in the southern resort city of Sochi in February that lies close to volatile region of North Caucasus where suicide attacks are frequent.
President Vladimir Putin, who believes the $50bn Winter Olympics will bring prestige to Russia, tightened the courtry’s security to prevent any attacks.
Security analysts say armed fighters are unlikely to penetrate the layers of protection around Sochi, but attacks cannot be ruled out.