Religious extremism to trigger territorial disputes: Russia

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Moscow, Mar 27 (UNI) Russian Federal Security Service head General Nikolai Patrushev today warned the international community that religious extremism may trigger a series of new territorial disputes across the world.

The terrorist threat was gaining momentum across the world and was predicted to grow in scale, Gen Patrushev said at a meeting of the heads of security agencies in the city of Khanty-Mansiisk in west Siberia.

''Religious extremism and ethnic separatism were major factors conducive to the growth that posed a threat to the current international security system and could trigger a series of territorial disputes in regions that have a complex ethnic and religious fabric,'' he added referring to the continuing clashes in Kosovo, the Muslim dominated province of Serbia, which declared independence in February.

On terrorism, Gen Patrushev highlighted the need to step up international cooperation to prevent terrorist attacks and cut extremist organisations from their sources of finance.

He also urged the creation of an international information anti-terrorism centre.

Russia had already announced the creation of an international anti-terrorism database and set up its segment as part of its National Anti-Terrorism Committee, which comprised all Russia's law enforcement, intelligence, military agencies and lawmakers.

''This is only the beginning of a process to establish a common anti-terrorism information space,'' he said.

In Russia the terrorist threat, however, was on a steady decline.

The number of terrorist attacks is falling by half every year, he said, adding that 257 terrorist attacks were registered in Russia in 2005, 112 in 2006 and 48 in 2007.

The FSB had prevented several terrorist acts in the run-up to the March 2 presidential election.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry Troops commandor Nikolai Rogozhkin yesterday said up to 500 militants were currently active in the Muslim-dominated North Caucasus republics.

''A surge in militant activity has been registered in Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. The gunmen are waging war using mines against troops and civilians. We are taking a range of swift measures to avert terrorist attacks,'' Gen Rogozin told reporters.

He said Russia was deploying about 30,000 Interior Troops in the North Caucasus region, including 23,000 in Chechnya and 6,000-7,000 in other North Caucasus republics where a surge in militant activity was registered.

However, he stressed the situation in the region is ''controllable'' and we do not expect any extreme circumstances.

''We have sufficient experience accumulated over the past few years to combat terrorist threats in the North Caucasus, for example in Chechnya, where we ensured security at the parliamentary and presidential elections. We will prevent any serious manifestations of terrorism,'' he said.

UNI XC SYU GC1837

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