Terrorism

Kazakhstan proposes new counter-terrorism methods

By Alexander Bogatik

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Two MVD cadets August 1 in Aktobe learn how to collect fingerprints. [MVD photo obtained by Alexander Bogatik]

ASTANA -- Kazakhstan's parliament is contemplating tough new ways to fight terrorism.

The effort comes after deadly terrorist attacks in Aktobe and Almaty shocked the country this summer.

During the September 1 opening of a parliamentary session, President Nursultan Nazarbayev asked MPs to "treat the suggestions very seriously and pass them by the end of this year".

They comprise seven bills, he said.

The proposed measures include collecting fingerprints and DNA samples from various Kazakhstanis. If parliament approves, they will take effect in January 2019.

Decisive action sought

Kazakhstani authorities are trying to clamp down on security after terrorists stunned the country by taking 12 lives in the Aktobe and Almaty attacks.

Radicalised Kazakhstanis are still travelling to Syria to join the militancy there, authorities concede, citing the powerful effect of internet propaganda.

"The state must strengthen national security," Nazarbayev said in his address to parliament.

However, authorities have been making progress all summer and autumn.

The National Security Committee (KNB) issued a report on its counter-terrorism progress September 5. Authorities have made dozens of arrests this year and have foiled a series of terrorist plots, the KNB said.

"If it weren't for the work of law enforcement and security agencies, there would be exponentially more terrorism and casualties in Kazakhstan," Zhambyl-based lawyer Aidos Otorbekov told Caravanserai.

Proposed changes to fight terrorism

This year, the government might enact a fingerprinting requirement after years of trying. The issue has been a subject of debate since 2001, but this year's terrorist violence might have given the momentum to supporters of fingerprinting.

If fingerprinting becomes compulsory, it will apply to everyone 16 and over who is seeking a new official ID document. It would be voluntary for those between 12 and 16 so that they would not have to be fingerprinted in the future. The bio-metric data attached to the fingerprint would go onto an electronic chip in Kazakhstanis' ID cards.

Presently, fingerprinting is mandatory only for "detained individuals and convicts", Otorbekov said.

The same bill envisions DNA sampling -- now a rarity in Kazakhstan -- for various categories of Kazakhstanis: "those convicted of felonies, immediate relatives of those who have disappeared, unidentified corpses, and individuals who lack identification", Otorbekov said.

Entering those individuals' DNA samples into a state database will be instrumental "in criminal cases", Otorbekov said.

Shymkent geneticist and physician Vadim Borenkov supports the fingerprinting and DNA bill.

With DNA, criminologists "can identify a deceased individual ... or a criminal from [the criminal's] biological material left at a crime scene", Borenkov told Caravanserai.

Other bills fight terrorism

Other bills under parliamentary consideration address more perceived loopholes in Kazakhstani security.

One bill would stiffen punishments for terrorism and for participation in militant forces like those in Syria and Iraq.

Another bill would increase restrictions on firearm sales. An Aktobe court recently convicted the manager of one gun store that terrorists stormed in June. They easily seized 18 rifles because the owner had not secured them to their display cases. The newly armed terrorists killed four people inside and near the store.

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