MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said hundreds of fighters loyal to the Islamic State militant group were massing in northern Afghanistan with plans to move between ex-Soviet Central Asian countries disguised as refugees, reports AFP.
"According to our intelligence, the number of (IS) members alone in northern Afghanistan is about 2,000 people," the Russian leader said during a video conference meeting with leaders of other ex-Soviet states.
On Friday, he said IS leaders in Afghanistan are seeking to project the group's influence across former Soviet states in Central Asia -- which Moscow sees as its backyard -- to stir up religious and ethnic discord.
"Terrorists are seeking to infiltrate the Commonwealth's territory, including under the guise of refugees," Putin said, referring to a group of ex-Soviet countries -- some of which border Afghanistan.
The Taliban, which seized control of Kabul from a pro-Western government in mid-August, are seeking international recognition, as well as assistance to avoid a humanitarian disaster.
Putin's special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told Russian news agency Interfax Friday that Taliban representatives would attend an international conference in Moscow next week alongside regional players Iran, China and Pakistan.
Putin on Friday said there was no need to rush with official recognition of the Taliban but noted that "we understand that we need to interact with them".