Six people of central Asian origin have been detained on suspicion of recruiting men to join ISIS and other extremist groups, Russian investigators said on Wednesday, but stressed there was no proof linking the detainees to the St. Petersburg suicide bomber.
The arrests came as Russia probed the potential motives of the alleged bomber who attacked the St. Petersburg metro on Monday afternoon, leaving 14 people dead and 50 injured.
Investigators have identified the attacker as 22-year-old Akbarjon Djalilov, who was born in 1995 in Kyrgyzstan and holds the Russian citizenship. He was killed in the blast.
They say he had also planted a bomb at another metro station at Russia’s second city that was successfully defused.
Russia’s state investigative committee said the six detainees had been charged with aiding terrorist activity.
Since November 2015, they had engaged in recruiting other central Asian migrants for ISIS and for another banned movement, the Nusra Front, its statement said.
Extremist literature was found during a search of the detainees’ living quarters, the statement added.
The committee added however: “At present there is no evidence that the detainees were in any way connected with, or knew, the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in the St. Petersburg metro.”
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev called on Wednesday for “very tough measures” after the bombing.
During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mirziyoyev said Uzbekistan was prepared to cooperate closely with Russia on security issues.
Authorities searched Djalilov’s residence and said CCTV footage showed him leaving his home ahead of the attack “with a bag and rucksack.”
The head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, ordered officials to look into any potential “links” between the alleged attacker and ISIS.
No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, Djalilov’s distraught parents, who say they had not seen their son for a while, flew into St. Petersburg from their home city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan.
State-owned Rossiya 24 television showed footage of a middle-aged woman in a red coat and a man in a black jacket, chased by journalists.
A memorial service was held for those killed at a cathedral in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, the second day of national mourning over the attack, which has stunned Russia.
The bombing also posed tough security issues as the city gears up to host the opening game and final of the Confederation Cup football tournament in June, ahead of Russia holding the World Cup in 2018.