Kyrgyzstan battles terrorist threat

By Sanzhar Sharipov


Police in Osh August 25 show a recently captured pro-militant banner, as well as confiscated munitions. [Photo obtained by Sanzhar Sharipov]

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz authorities are investigating the illegal possession of explosives and are not ruling out a tie to terrorist plans.

"We work actively to solve cases linked to the illegal possession and preparation of and trade in weapons, ammunition ... and explosives," Rayim Salimov, acting chief of the 10th Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry (MVD), said during an August 16 session in Bishkek of the MVD governing board.

Such offences occur often in the capital and in the south, according to the 10th Main Directorate, which fights extremism and terrorism.

Recent raids based on evidence found August 9 turned up a grenade "in a cemetery in Suzak District, Jalal-Abad Province" and two grenades "in a cemetery in Kara-Suu District, Osh Province", the MVD said.

Police arrested two suspects in connection with the Suzak District cache and are accusing someone with a criminal record of storing the grenades in Kara-Suu District. One Suzak District suspect had additional explosives stored at home, police said.

Breaking up recruiting

The threat of extremist recruitment remains acute, even though police have made arrests for years.

On August 25, police broke up an international terrorist group's recruiting cell operating in Issyk-Kul Province and in Bishkek, according to Bishkek police.

"Secret meetings of the cell took place in an apartment in Bishkek," police said in a statement. "[We] arrested an active member of ISIL [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant']."

Police identified the ISIL suspect as R. I., 43, a foreign national born in Kyrgyzstan.

The suspect's apartment had incriminating materials, such as more than 200 copies of extremist literature, four ISIL flags and various munitions, police said.

Another raid conducted the night of August 23-24 in Bishkek resulted in the arrest of a suspected terrorist leader, O. I., 24.

O. I. had a pistol, grenade, munitions, bomb fuses and other incriminating supplies, the State National Security Committee (GKNB) told Caravanserai.

Public helps fight terrorism

The concerned public, including devout Muslims, "plays an important part in maintaining security", GKNB spokesman Ulanbek Jalildinov told Caravanserai.

"We have had cases of alert citizens helping uncover persons related to non-traditional ... movements and to criminal groups that could endanger society," he said.

One risk is returning migrant workers who might have fought for ISIL in Syria and Iraq, he added.

The government's anti-extremism efforts are yielding positive results, Salijan haji Makhmudov, imam of a mosque in Suzak District, Jalal-Abad Province, told Caravanserai.

"It's good to have true [Muslims] take an interest not only in religious issues but in social matters too," he said. "Extremism and terrorism are incompatible with Islam."

Embedding prevention in Friday prayers and in informal conversations in tea-rooms and other places considerably raises the effectiveness of the fight against radicalisation, Makhmudov said.

The message, conveyed by clerics and by officials, is sinking in.

"Our local police officer told us that we must not store weapons -- let alone explosives -- that extremists could use in our homes," Sakhiba Kulnazarova, 52, a schoolteacher in Kara-Suu District, told Caravanserai.

"None of us wants a war like the one going on in Syria," she said. "The radicals who cover themselves in the banner of Islam are discrediting our religion ... they're even recruiting our young men and praising ISIL."

Kulnazarova urged block committees to take up the fight against extremism more vigorously, including helping police find those who could be storing or transferring explosives and munitions.

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