The Associated Press Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that about 10 al-Qaida members are in the North Caucasus.
The comments by were in line with efforts by the Kremlin to cast the struggle against militants fighting federal forces in Chechnya as part of the international war on terrorism.
Patrushev told NTV television that two Saudi-born militants who had led groups of rebel fighters in Chechnya — Omar Ibn al-Khattab and Abu Walid — were al-Qaida members.
Patrushev said that an Arab man from al-Qaida replaced Abu Walid, who was reportedly killed by federal forces in Chechnya earlier this year. He identified the man as Abu Khavs.
Khattab died in 2002, apparently after being poisoned. Patrushev also said authorities recently detained an Algerian citizen, Abu Muskhab.
Patrushev said Abu Muskhab told authorities that he has residency status in Britain and that he came to Russia to train terrorists and carry out terrorist attacks.
“According to our data, at the present time, there are about 10 al-Qaida representatives on the territory of the North Caucasus,” he said.