The head of Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Center has warned that terrorists are intentionally trying to spread the coronavirus, using it as a form of bio-weapon.
Andrei Novikov, head of Russia’s Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), told Russian state news agency Tass that the terrorists are using the health crisis to further their own agendas.
“While governments are trying to ensure health security, focusing on protecting the lives and health of their people, recruiters of international terrorist groups are not just taking advantage of the difficult situation in order to recruit more ‘Jihad soldiers,’ they are calling on infected members to spread COVID-19 as wide as possible in public places, state agencies and so on,” Novikov said.
The anti-terror chief also noted that terrorists have been hampered by lockdowns and so are finding other ways of recruiting and spreading fear.
“As the population started moving into self-isolation and borders between countries were closing, the level of terrorist activity had somewhat decreased,” Novikov said.
“The reason is obvious – it became significantly more difficult for terrorists to move around, especially between countries, given that border control as well as disease control and prevention were heightened,” he continued.
Novikov further added that online “Media centers were activated which combine the spread of terrorist and extremist ideology and the recruitment of new members.”
He stated that anti-terror efforts are now focusing more on stopping the spread of misinformation designed to induce societal collapse.
“Above all, they are linked to mobilization technologies to ensure public safety, to thwart the spread of unreliable information and any attempts to wreak panic and social tension,” Novikov asserted.
Interestingly, Novikov also claimed that terrorists are using resentment against government imposed lockdowns, as well as a “declining quality of life” in countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, to entice new recruits.
“There is a common understanding that the objective “social fatigue” should be separated from the restrictions introduced and its artificial amplification in order to destabilize the constitutional structure,” Novikov stated.
The warnings echo those of European Union counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, who recently noted that terrorists are planning to use upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic to find holes in the national security of target countries.
Kerchove warned that a “massive amount of money that will be spent to address the economic, social, and healthcare consequences of the virus” should not be taken away from national security spending.
“We must prevent the one crisis ending up producing another,” he urged.