OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- A 20-year-old Osh Province native is serving a nine-year prison sentence after being caught recruiting young Kyrgyz to go fight in Syria.
The Osh Province court July 21 handed down the sentence to Ilkhomjon Abdirakhmanov of Nookat District, Osh Province, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court press office told Caravanserai.
The court found him guilty of extremist recruitment and illegally acquisition or carriage of a firearm or explosive device.
Abdirakhmanov not only recruited Kyrgyz to join the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) but plotted to commit terrorist attacks in public places in Kyrgyzstan.
"Abdirakhmanov was working abroad with his parents in a city in a CIS country," Baktybek Jumagulov, an Interior Ministry (MVD) investigator who worked on the case, told Caravanserai. "He returned to Nookat District last September and used mobile apps and the internet to connect with the ... a member of the terrorist Imam Bukhari Jamaat organisation in Turkey."
Imam Bukhari Jamaat has several hundred members fighting in Syria.
The MVD has turned over information about Abdirakhmanov's foreign contact to Turkish authorities in the hopes that Turkey can identify him, Jumagulov said.
Recruit worked with police
Abdirakhmanov's downfall came from trying to recruit someone who went to police instead.
"After joining Imam Bukhari Jamaat, Abdirakhmanov used Odnoklassniki to recruit T. D. [a resident of Osh city]", Jumagulov said.
"T. D. alerted Osh city police that he was being recruited to go to Syria," Jumagulov said. "Police asked him to stay in touch with Abdirakhmanov."
Last October 30, Abdirakhamov was planning to carjack an Osh city businessman named A. Kh. He intended to sell the car to buy plane tickets for Kyrgyz militants going to Turkey (and on to Syria).
Abdirakhmanov ordered T. D. to find him a gun. On November 3, Police gave T. D. a flare gun to hand over.
Abdirakhmanov recognised the gun as useless and gave it back to T. D. The plan to carjack A. Kh. was never realised.
The trap closes
Last November 15, police arrested Abdirakhmanov as he was returning to Nookat District from Osh International Airport, where T. D. had pretended to board a plane for Istanbul.
On the same night, police searched the suspect's house and found terrorist supplies, such as plastic bottles stuffed with explosives.
A lower court June 1 sentenced Abdirakhmanov to 10 years in prison. However, after he appealed, the Osh Province Court July 21 cut a year off his sentence in recognition of his age.
"Security agencies trailed [him] for several weeks," Osh Province police spokesman Jenishbek Ashirbayev told Caravanserai. "He arranged travel for extremist recruits to war zones and was ultimately plotting [terrorist] acts inside Kyrgyzstan."
Abdirakhmanov handled issues related to financing, preparing documents and buying plane tickets for Syria-bound militants, Ashirbayev said.
"The MVD 10th Administration [the MVD's counter-terrorism wing] found out that Abdirakhmanov was plotting terrorist attacks with improvised explosive devices [IEDs]," Ashirbayev said.
Still looking for recruiters
Authorities are looking for other extremist recruiters who target youth in southern Kyrgyzstan, State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Ulanbek Jalildinov told Caravanserai.
"He couldn't have been working alone," Jalildinov said. "He changed his phone numbers so that investigators couldn't pinpoint him. We are continuing to develop information about his circle of acquaintances ... We're trying to find those who were directing him -- most likely foreign recruiters."
In recent months, the flow of militants from Kyrgyzstan to Syria and to Iraq has all but dried up, as authorities conduct outreach with the public and arrest extremists, Jalildinov said.
Extremists posing as migrant workers in CIS cities are now doing the lion's share of ISIL recruiting, he said, adding that the ostensible migrants target uneducated youth.