Russia blames al-Qaida for forest fires

Oct. 3, 2012 at 10:32 AM
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MOSCOW, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A Russian security official suggested Wednesday that al-Qaida was responsible for a series of forest fires that swept across much of Europe.

The European Foreign Fire Information System said about 100,000 hectares in the region had burned by the end of March. The agency noted forest fires are occurring earlier in the season.

Alexander Bortnikov, Russia's security service chief, told law enforcement officials in Moscow that al-Qaida may be responsible for some of the fires.

"Forest fires in European Union countries should be considered one of the new trends in al-Qaida's 'thousand cuts' strategy," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying. "This approach allows them to inflict significant damage on the economy and morale without any serious preparation, technical equipment, or financial outlay."

Al-Qaida had said it was basing its new era of warfare on a so-called "strategy of a thousand cuts," a high-frequency, low-scale method of terrorism operations.

Moscow said the fire season in 2012 was one of the worst in years, with more than 2,000 hectares engulfed in April.

Wildfires in Russia in 2010 killed 62 people and burned more than 2 million hectares of land, causing concerns about the global supply of staple food crops such as grain.

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