Fires that devastated large parts of European forestry have been blamed on al-Qaeda by Russia's security services who accuse the terrorist group of waging "forest jihad."
Southern European countries including Spain, Portugal, and Greece suffered another summer of ravaging fires, with many fires the work of suspected arsonists. Now, the director of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSS), Alexander Bortnikov, has blamed al-Qaeda for the fires.
The Moscow Times reported Bortnikov told a security services conference in Moscow: "This method allows [al-Qaida] to cause significant economic and moral damage without serious preparations or financial losses."
To substantiate his claim Bortnikov cited instructions on how to wage 'forest jihad' which the FSS had spotted on extremist websites.
According to UPI Bortnikov also said "setting fires doesn't require serious preparation, technical equipment or financial outlay" while arsonists are difficult to apprehend.
Ivan Blokov, Russia's Greenpeace Program Director, discounted Bortnikov's claims Interfax reported. He said "I do not really believe that the fires have been prompted by terrorist activities. We do not have any reasons to presume that the forest fires in Europe this year were caused by deliberate arson."
The World Wildlife Federation also reacted with skepticism to the claims from Russia's FSS.
While many fires start through negligence, some are undoubtedly the work of arsonists with less lofty goals than international terrorism. The fires which ravaged 15,000 hectares of forest land on the Greek Island of Chios in August were started by a 24-year-old Greek man who was angry at being turned down in his bid to become a fire-fighter.