CARs not co-operating in fighting 'terrorism:' Russia's allegation
AFP, DAWN, Thursday 19 April 2001–24 Muharram 1422
ST PETERSBURG, April 18: The head of Russia's security service (FSB, formerly KGB) accused the Central Asian countries (CARs) of a lack of co-operation in the fight against "Islamic extremism" amid fears of a spring offensive.
FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev criticized the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Independent States (a loose grouping of ex-Soviet republics, minus the Baltics) for not ratifying anti-terrorism measures agreed by their national leaders.
"There is not enough will on the part of the parliaments to apply the decisions taken at the level of heads of state," Patrushev said at a conference here on terrorism in the Central Asia and Caucasus region.
Russia has become increasingly alarmed by the threat of religious extremism within its borders and along its southern frontier.
Concern mounted following a wave of attacks on Central Asia last August that destabilized the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrghyzstan and Tajikistan.
Head of Russia's border service Konstantin Totsky said he had information that extremists were preparing to step up their activities at the end of this month or the beginning of next.
"It is clear that subversive activities are being conducted inside Tajikistan and Uzbekistan," Totsky said at the conference.
The zealots, who allegedly wish to carve out an Islamic state in Central Asia's Ferghana Valley, are alleged to have been harboured and even trained by the Taliban.
However, Totsky ruled out any direct attack on Central Asian states by the Taliban.
Nevertheless he called for the destruction of training camps in other states, and a greater exchange of information and training for border guards to thwart the zealots.
Russia has some 11,000 troops stationed in Tajikistan. They are frequently drawn into gun battles with Afghans attempting to smuggle heroin and opium across the 1,500-kilometre Tajik-Afghan frontier.
Moscow also alleges fighters are being trained in bases in Afghanistan to fight Russian troops in Chechnya.
President Vladimir Putin, who recently appointed Patrushev to head the country's ongoing crackdown there, has tried to portray the war as an "anti-terrorist" operation.
Patrushev told the conference that around 500 Chechens were located on Georgian territory and urged joint operations with the Georgian security service to halt cross-border attacks.
Moscow has blamed extremists based in Chechnya for a spate of apartment bomb attacks in Russia in Sept 1999, which left over 290 people dead and prompted the Kremlin to launch its 18-month military intervention in the republic.-AFP