Putin thanks Trump for help in foiling attack plot

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MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked his United States counterpart Donald Trump yesterday for help from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in thwarting a planned attack in St Petersburg. It was the second time in a week that the leaders have exchanged praise.

Mr Putin spoke by phone with Mr Trump to convey his gratitude for intelligence supplied by the CIA which allowed Russia's FSB security service to break up a "terrorist cell" that was planning attacks in Russia's second city, according to the Kremlin.

"The information received by the CIA was enough to detect, hunt down and arrest the criminals," it added in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Mr Putin also pledged that Russian security agencies would pass on any information received about terrorist threats to the United States and its citizens.

The White House said the foiled attack could have killed "large numbers of people".

It stressed that the cooperation "serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together".

The FSB announced on Friday that it had arrested seven members of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cell that had been planning a suicide bombing and "the killing of citizens" in crowded areas of St Petersburg on Saturday.

Police confiscated a large number of explosives used to make homemade bombs, automatic rifles, munitions and extremist literature, it said.

Last Tuesday, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said Russia was on alert for the possible return of jihadists from Syria ahead of the World Cup and the presidential election next year.

Russia has suffered several attacks this year, including a bombing on the St Petersburg metro in April that left 14 people dead.

The threat of attack has increased since Moscow's military intervention in Syria in September 2015 to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime, making Russia a priority ISIS target.

As many as 40,000 fighters travelled from all over the world, including Russia, to join ISIS in Syria after the 2014 declaration of its self-styled "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.