Two days on from the fatal subway bombing in St Petersburg, authorities have arrested six Central Asians suspected of recruiting for terror groups. The suspected perpetrator in Monday's attack was a Kyrgyzstan national.
Russian authorities launched a series of raids across St Petersburg on Wednesday, detaining six people of Central Asian origin believed to have served as recruiters for terrorist groups, including the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadist group.
Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement that the suspects had mainly targeted fellow nationals from Central Asian states that were formally part of the Soviet Union.
The arrests come just a day after a 22-year-old Kyrgyz-born man was identified as the main suspect in Monday's deadly suicide bombing on a St Petersburg subway. Fourteen people were killed and at least 50 others injured in the blast.
The six detained were suspected of recruiting "mostly immigrants from the republics of Central Asia to commit crimes of a terrorist nature and involvement in the activities of terrorist organizations banned in Russia," the Investigative Committee statement said. The raids on their homes also reportedly uncovered extremist Islamist literature.
All six face a criminal charge of involvement in terror activities.
However, Russian authorities did not mention whether those detained had any links to Monday's attacker.
Kyrgyzstan officials identified the suspected perpirtrator of Monday's attack as 22-year-old Akbarjon Djalilov.
Prime recruitment grounds
Officials fear that the predominantly Muslim Central Asian states, which once formed part of the Soviet Union, are becoming prime recruiting grounds for terrorist organizations.
In a meeting on Wednesday with the heads of security services from most of Russia's Central Asian neighbors, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of the terrorist threat facing the region.
"We see that, unfortunately, the situation is not improving," he said. "The recent tragic events in St. Petersburg are the best confirmation of this. We know that each of our countries, practically every one, is a possible and potential target of terrorist attacks."
Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev vowed to take "very tough measures" on extremists in his country, adding that he would cooperate closely with Russia on security issues.
dm/rc (AP, dpa)