Southern Kyrgyzstan counters terror threats

By Sanzhar Sharipov


Weapons and extremist literature seized in Batken Province June 10 are shown. [GKNB photo obtained by Sanzhar Sharipov]

BATKEN, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz police continue to break up extremist plots throughout the country.

In another recent achievement, police June 10 in Batken Province arrested three suspects accused of ties to extremism and terrorism.

"We established that T. T., M. K. and M. A. were trained by terrorists and fought in Syria," State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Rakhat Sulaimanov told Central Asia Online.

The trio came out of Syria with plans to organise underground terror cells that would carry out attacks in Kyrgyzstan, he said.

"During a search of the suspects' homes, police found and seized automatic weapons ... a stockpile of munitions, extremist literature and flash drives with 'jihadist' content," Sulaimanov said.

All the suspects are in jail awaiting trial and are making confessions, he said.

Meanwhile, the GKNB is tracking down possible accomplices of the trio and other terror suspects within Kyrgyzstan.

Looking for Tajik fugitives

Kyrgyz authorities meanwhile have another objective: searching for Tajik convicts who escaped from a Khujand prison June 17, Interior Ministry (MVD) official Almaz Toguzakov told Central Asia Online.

"It's possible they're hiding somewhere in our province," Toguzakov said.

Ominous predictions that Kyrgyz militants would come home from Syria are coming true, Toguzakov said, adding that their return could endanger stability in the Fergana Valley, which Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan share.

"Let's hope that Batken Province residents ... will inform law enforcement if they find any suspected radicals or terrorists," he said. "They did in 1999."

In 1999-2000, Kyrgyz regular troops fought Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) terrorists who had entered Batken Province via Tajikistan and took hostages.

Sixteen years ago, villagers alerted Kyrgyz authorities about a militant build-up in Zardaly village, on the border with Tajikistan, Asylbek Kochkorbayev, a resident of Karakab village, Batken Province, told Central Asia Online.

"Cellphone networks didn't exist," he recalled. "But a village elder managed to escape and reached Batken, where he told police about the militants."

Border troops, intelligence personnel, police and volunteers will nab radicals and militant proselytisers, Kochkorbayev predicted.

Border troops on alert

The State Border Service (GPS) is on the alert for efforts to breach the border.

During a June 15-17 field expedition to Batken Province, GPS Chairman Abdikarim Alimbayev described efforts under way to keep out militants.

"Our agency teamed up with the Batken Province Co-ordinating Council to study and discuss hard-to-access roads, mountain trails, passes and border out-posts," Alimbayev said about his trip. "We did overflights of stretches of the border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan."

When extremism and terrorism are on the rise, guarding the border is essential, he said.

"We examined the villages of Zardaly, Korgon and Kojo-Ashkan," Alimbayev said. "We deployed officers to dangerous areas."

"In 1999, the militants who breached our border served as a wake-up call," he said.

Civic outreach regularly and often

During the past year and a half, the Bishkek-based NGO Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) has conducted a number of counter-terrorism efforts, Suyunbek Makhkamov, a Batken-based volunteer for FTI, told Central Asia Online.

"These days, only the lazy don't understand the topic," Makhkamov said. "All schools and universities, as well as government agencies and NGOs, are spreading information about the dangers of extremism far and wide."

All these problems stem from a lack of religious knowledge among the general public and lack of a guiding national ideology, Makhkamov said, adding that extremist recruiters take advantage of idle youth.

"Preventive outreach work should be conducted regularly," he said. "Theologians, clerics, religious scholars and attorneys should take part. We need to attract youth to sports, music and other hobbies."

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