The number of Russian nationals fighting alongside Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq has roughly doubled over the past year, to a range of 1,500 to 1,700, according to recent estimates by the head of Russia’s FSB security agency and by the Kremlin’s envoy to Chechnya. Russian and Western analysts have said that about 1,000 Russian-speaking jihadis took part in an Islamic State assault last year on Iraq’s Anbar province that was led by a fighter known as Omar the Chechen.
That means Russia is now supplying far more jihadis than any country outside the Middle East and North Africa. (France, the biggest European source of fighters, has said that about 900 of its citizens received training in Syria, with about 300 remaining there in 2014.)
Jihadi groups have stepped up recruiting in the historically Muslim North Caucasus region of Russia that includes Chechnya and Dagestan. The region is home to a longstanding bloody insurgency movement whose current leadership has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State and is urging local supporters to go to Syria. “A new team is coming,” the movement’s leader, Ali Abu Muhammad al Dagestani, promised in a message on its website addressed last week to “Mujahid brothers” from the region who have already left….