Police in Russia’s southern Urals republic of Bashkortostan have arrested nine “radical Muslims” who attempted to take control of several mosques.
“The detained individuals are suspected of trying to remove the imams of several mosques from their posts,” a police spokesman said on Tuesday.
The suspects are active adherents of Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam and the official religion of Saudi Arabia.
Weapons, components for making explosive devices and extremist literature were discovered during searches of the suspects’ homes.
“For years the activities of this religious group have been aimed at spreading radical ideology under the disguise of Islamic teachings,” the police official said. “Its members were trying to recruit new adepts, destabilize the situation [in the region] and promote radical Islamist ideas among the local population.”
According to Russian sources, there are “hundreds of thousands of Wahhabists and their sympathizers” among the Muslim communities in Russia, especially in North Caucasus.
Wahhabists practice an austere form of Islam, and in Saudi Arabia have destroyed the graves of relatives of the Prophet Mohammed and buildings associated with the prophet in order to prevent “idolatry.”
Wahhabists are also believed to be behind a string of attacks on imams in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus republic of Dagestan.