Kazakhstan steps up its fight against terrorism

By Alexander Bogatik

Rapid response police teams in Astana September 1. [Courtesy of Kazakhstani prime minister's press office]

Rapid response police teams in Astana September 1. [Courtesy of Kazakhstani prime minister's press office]

ASTANA -- A roundtable -- "Legal and Institutional Measures to Prevent and Thwart Today's Extremism and Terrorism" -- organised by the lower house of parliament (Mazhilis) September 22 in Astana, brought together senate and Mazhilis members, government agency directors, NGO members, civic and religious leaders and political analysts to discuss the latest stage of fighting terrorism and extremism.

"Fighting against extremism and terrorism is productive only when all of society stands together," the Mazhilis press office said in a statement.

Mazhilis Speaker Nurlan Nigmatulin stressed the need to refine counter-terrorism legislation and the relevance of amendments that the Mazhilis is reviewing.

He was speaking about seven bills dealing with anti-extremism and -terrorism measures, counter-intelligence, fingerprint and genome registration and information security.

"Today, it is not just us, but virtually the entire world that has encountered the global threat of terrorism, and we must step up our fight against this evil...We should be ready to change both our legislative and legal foundations to combat this dangerous phenomenon," Nigmatulin said.

Solving socio-economic issues to prevent terrorism

"Socio-economic and humanitarian aid plays a critical role in countering extremism and terrorism -- legal methods are not the only way," he added. "It's important not only to identify and stop any crimes, but also to prevent them by eliminating their causes."

Religious Affairs and Civil Society Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev agreed, urging participants to solve socio-economic problems and to co-operate pro-actively with NGOs.

"Extremism thrives in places with unresolved socio-economic issues," he said.

Yermekbayev urged more co-operation with NGOs and more funding for NGOs through government contracts.

"If NGOs get their extremism prevention projects funded, then they can direct the enormous potential of their experts, specialists, and volunteers towards resolving this issue," Nazerke Miyatova of Almaty, director of the NGO Akyl, told Caravanserai.

Youth are main target of extremists, officials say

Nine out of 10 terrorists in Kazakhstan are under 40, making preventive work with youth an urgent matter, participants said.

The 90% under 40 include 55% under 20 and 35% between 30 and 39, the Religious Affairs and Civil Society Ministry said.

"Youth are the primary target of proselytisers of extremism and terrorism," Alinur Shpekpayev, a religion analyst for the Almaty Province Administration for Religious Affairs, told Caravanserai. "We should ... explain traditional religions to our youth. They should know who the puppet masters and puppets are."

One government plan to prevent extremism is to find youth who neither work nor attend school. Authorities hope to train them for jobs.

Meanwhile, the National Security Committee (KNB) delegates at the roundtable noted the problem posed by alumni of unvetted foreign religious schools who disseminate extremist ideology, as well as by convicts who proselytise behind bars.

Online recruitment continues, the KNB participants said, while describing the legal reforms needed to solve the problem.

Kazakhstanis who return from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq with combat experience constitute an entirely separate threat, KNB delegates said.

Increasing security

Other problems drew the attention of participants.

Many public places need better security, Deputy General Prosecutor Andrey Kravchenko said in his presentation.

The KNB is developing proposed legislation to keep weapons and bombs out of terrorists' hands, KNB Deputy Chairman Nurlan Bilisbekov said in his presentation.

The country plans to install 51,000 surveillance cameras soon to prevent terrorism, he said.

"The [June 5] terrorist attack in Aktobe showed that surveillance systems in our cities are inadequate," he said.

Authorities are discussing plans to open rehabilitation centres in rural areas for extremists.

Ambassador György Szabó, head of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Programme Office in Astana, spoke about the need for preventive measures.

Fighting terrorism daily

Kazakhstani security agencies have been busy since war broke out in Syria in 2011, which created an opportunity for radicalised Kazakhstanis to go find their idea of "jihad".

Since 2011, Kazakhstani intelligence has prevented 559 citizens from leaving the country to join terrorist or militant groups abroad, the KNB said.

"Since the beginning of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, [we] extradited 45 Kazakhstani citizens from international terrorist camps, and 33 returned of their own accord," Bilisbekov said, adding that Kazakhstani courts have convicted 445 defendants of extremism and extremism in the past five years.

During that time, authorities foiled 73 extremist plots, he said.

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It is high time for the authorities to rid our peaceful society of this bearded scum in the form of deceitful, satanic Salafites, the sect of Iblis. Thanks to all the fighters in Kazakhstan's special forces and security services for their self-sacrificing work in fighting this global evil from Satan. And those Ministry of Internal Affairs and National Security Committee field agents who died during special operations are Allah's true warriors, protecting people's peace and tranquility. May Allah have mercy on them.