Islamic State holds alleged Russian intelligence officer hostage

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The Islamic State’s Furat Media Establishment has released a short video of a man who allegedly works for Russian intelligence. The Russian-speaking man is dressed in all black with a badge that appears to read “infidel” on it. He identifies himself as Petrenko Ivgeniy Viktorovich and says he is a captain in the Russian intelligence service based in Moscow, an apparent reference to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). He does not indicate how or where he was captured.

The man is made to address President Vladimir Putin directly, saying the Russian leader took an “oath” to defend his country’s citizens no matter where they are located. He adds that Putin has “good information” on the so-called “caliphate” and, therefore, knows how dire his situation really is. He then pleads with the Russian government and people to do whatever it takes to free him from captivity.

The video, which was posted online on Sept. 20, is nearly three minutes long and is subtitled in Arabic. Curiously, the Russian man does not say what the Islamic State wants his country to do. In past videos, including those showing the executions of American hostages, the Islamic State has demanded that its foreign enemies cease their airstrikes or other operations targeting the self-declared “caliphate”.

The Islamic State has a large contingent of fighters from the Caucasus region in its ranks. The group established a foothold in Chechnya and Dagestan by winning the loyalty of jihadists who were formerly part of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate (ICE).

The Islamic State’s Caucasus “province” was formally established in June 2015. Since then, it has claimed responsibility for a string of small-scale attacks. The first came in Sept. 2015, when the jihadists claimed to strike Russian forces in southern Dagestan. In Mar. 2016, the Islamic State’s arm said its fighters implanted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that were detonated underneath Russian army vehicles.

In August, two young jihadis assaulted Russian police outside of Moscow. Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the Islamic State, quickly issued a claim of responsibility. Amaq also released a video of the two terrorists pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. [See LWJ report, Jihadists who attacked Russian police appear in Islamic State video.]

The State Department has designated the Caucasus “province” as a terrorist organization and added individual leaders to the US government’s list of terrorists as well.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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