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Russian police detain 15 Islamists in Moscow

Russian police have said they detained 15 radical Islamists in Moscow who had been planning terrorist attacks. Police say the group belonged to a banned offshoot of the al Qaeda terror network.

Russia's interior ministry on Wednesday said the 15 people detained were members of the Islamist jihad movement Takfir Wal-Hijra and had been discovered to have been hiding weapons and explosives in their apartments.

During a nighttime raid in the city's eastern districts, officers arrested 14 extremists and found three explosive devices, the ministry said. Another member of the group was detained later at a different address. No further details were provided.

The interior ministry said the group had been funding its activities by "conducting general crime."

Takfir Wal-Hijra was formed in Egypt in the 1970s and the group is believed to have cells linked to al Qaeda in several other countries. The group was outlawed in Russia in 2010.

Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency said the group's activities were first detected about five years ago in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine.

However, it was not clear whether Takfir Wal-Hijra members in the region had actual links to the original organization in Egypt or had simply just assumed the name.

Russia remains on heightened alert ahead of the Winter Olympic Games that are set to begin on February 7 in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that lies near the volatile North Caucasus.

hc/rg (AFP, dpa, AP)