Kazakhstan breaks up series of terrorist plots

By Alexander Bogatik

Kazakhstani special forces carry out a hypothetical arrest in an undated photo. [KNB photo obtained by Alexander Bogatik]

Kazakhstani special forces carry out a hypothetical arrest in an undated photo. [KNB photo obtained by Alexander Bogatik]

ASTANA -- Since the beginning of 2016, Kazakhstan has convicted 57 radicals and has stopped 70 extremists from going to Syria to join insurgents there, officials said recently.

The National Security Committee (KNB) described its successes this year at a September 5 news conference in Astana.

This year, law enforcement has broken up eight radical groups and thwarted four would-be lone-wolf terrorists, the KNB said.

"Some of the [thwarted] groups ... operated directly under international terrorist organsations," the KNB said in a report distributed at the briefing.

"The ever-growing pool of terrorist and extremist propaganda online helps radicalise citizens," KNB Anti-Terrorism Centre chief of staff Janat Saipoldayev said at the news conference.

"We've decreased the flow of [insurgent] recruits to the Mideast," he said. "This year, we prevented 70 Kazakhstani citizens from going to war zones."

Terrorists use counterfeit money

Authorities recently broke up a ruse by extremists to print counterfeit money, the KNB said.

The KNB and Kazakhstani revenue officers August 12 arrested two suspected counterfeiters in West Kazakhstan Province.

The suspects planned to print money to finance terrorism, the KNB said, adding that the officials seized more than 200,000 KZT (about US $560) from them.

The suspects had "[currency-grade] paper, computers and copying machines", the KNB said.

Authorities August 26-27 in West Kazakhstan Province captured the other suspected members of the group.

The suspects were plotting to attack a local police station in Uralsk to seize weapons, the KNB said, adding that they intended to keep attacking special forces and police.

The detainees had "an air rifle, home-made knives, and extremist [propaganda] materials stored on various devices" when arrested, the KNB said in its report.

Suicide bombers planned to kill police

Another group of 11 Kazakhstanis in Aktobe Province recently became radicalised via the internet, authorities say.

Those 11 "prepared for 'jihad', promoted radical ideas among their peers and tried to establish contact with foreign terrorists", the KNB said in its report.

Authorities in Aktobe Province arrested all 11 on August 29. They are accused of plotting to attack law enforcement, including by suicide bombing, and to carry out terrorism in Kazakhstan and another CIS country.

Plotting against security forces and clergy

Other suspects face charges of targeting the military and the clergy.

An extremist group in Almaty Province planned to attack Border Service and Defence Ministry bases, as well as high officials of security agencies and the Spiritual Administration for Muslims of Kazakhstan (DUMK), the KNB says.

Authorities in Almaty Province detained on August 18 the suspected members of that group -- a Kyrgyz citizen and two Kazakhstanis with criminal records. The Kyrgyz was the designated ringleader of the trio, authorities say.

The suspects were considering "hijacking a civilian or military plane to commit a ... terror attack similar to the one on 9/11", the KNB said.

They were planning to video themselves beforehand explaining their motivations and to upload the video, authorities say.

Other arrests

Kazakhstani authorities made numerous other terrorism-related arrests in 2016.

In Almaty Province on August 30, they arrested a suspected lone-wolf terrorist with a criminal record in the act of buying 3kg of explosives, Anti-Terrorism Centre spokesman Saken Mynbayev said at the briefing in Astana.

In Karaganda Province in June, authorities arrested suspects accused of belonging to two related extremist groups. They arrested one group as it was trying to go to to the Middle East.

Alert local residents tipped off police to the other group. Authorities made eight arrests. One extremist blew himself up during the raids.

That group had accumulated enough explosives to flatten an apartment building, the KNB said.

In still more counter-terrorism action, authorities in February arrested five extremists in Astana, whom a court eventually convicted. The five included nationals from Kazakhstan and two other countries.

Those five were planning attacks in two countries, including Kazakhstan, the court found.

Authorities rolled up three more suspects this year.

In Temirtau on June 27, authorities arrested a local resident who is accused of taking orders from international terrorist groups to attack certain targets in South Kazakhstan Province.

They arrested his suspected accomplice recently in Karaganda Province.

The two planned to kidnap the family members of "wealthy businessmen" to raise money for terrorism, Mynbayev said.

In Uralsk in July, police arrested a man for allegedly building two improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Uralsk man planned to attack so-called "infidels", authorities say.

His own relatives turned him in. He became radicalised by online propaganda, authorities say.

The investigation continues.

Aktobe suspects on trial

One complex case that shocked the country, the deadly terrorist attack in Aktobe on June 5, is working its through the judicial system.

In the days after terrorists attacked two gun stores and a military base in Aktobe, security forces killed 18 of the extremists. Sources differ on whether the terrorists killed seven or eight Kazakhstanis.

Thirty defendants are on trial in connection with charges from the Aktobe attacks.

The terrorists conducted the attacks on orders from a high-ranking "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) militant in Syria named Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani, investigators said.

Al-Adnani, a top deputy to ISIL commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in August in Aleppo, ISIL recently admitted.

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