Moscow: Al Qaeda is responsible for the recent spate of forest fires in Europe, Russian security service Chief Alexander Bortnikov claimed Wednesday.
"Forest fires in European Union countries should be considered one of the new trends in Al Qaeda`s `thousand cuts` strategy. This approach allows them to inflict significant damage on the economy and morale without any serious preparation, technical equipment, or financial outlay," Bortnikov told the 11th meeting of Russian and partner states` security and law enforcement services in Moscow.
Security services had only minimal chances of catching these arsonists, he added, supporting his claims with content on extremist websites talking about "forest jihad" - including suggestions about the most effective ways of starting a forest fire.
Bortnikov also said the security services` current priority is countering the spread of terrorist activity in the Middle East and North Africa, adding international terror networks could use these internal conflicts for their own ends, "threatening the stability of entire regions" and "posing a threat to the entire international community".
Forest fires have become an annual occurrence across Europe in recent years, with southern European countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia particularly hard-hit.
The European Forest Fire Information System in August noted that 2012 had seen more fires early in the season, reporting 100,000 hectares consumed by fire by the end of March.