OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Four "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) members are beginning long prison terms after the Osh City Court convicted them September 16.
The two Uzbekistanis and two Kyrgyz were convicted under laws punishing participation in illegal armed groups and the financing of terrorism, according to the Kyrgyz Supreme Court press office.
Their sentences range from 10 to 18 years.
The defendants "were all arrested at Osh International Airport March 6, when they were attempting to go to Istanbul", Osh City Court chief justice Kylychbek Istambkulov said in Osh September 26. "Extremist literature, laptops, CDs, flash drives and masks in their Osh apartment ... confirmed that they were plotting a terrorist attack."
"Investigators ... determined the group was formed through social networks and apps like WhatsApp, Odnoklassniki and others," State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Rakhat Sulaimanov told Caravanserai.
The defendants all joined ISIL while working abroad, Sulaimanov said, adding that they received orders to wage "jihad" in Osh.
The defendants had orders "to murder five residents of Osh Province whom they considered to be 'kafirs' [infidels] and to commit a number of robberies in Osh city to finance terrorism in Syria, Sulaimanov said.
The defendants were defiant during their trial and threatened everyone in the courtroom, Istamkulov said.
Law enforcement agencies are working together to identify, prevent and thwart terrorist activity in Kyrgyzstan, Sulaimanov said.
Public support helps fight extremism, officials say
Increased work in the field and support from locals help combat extremism and terrorism, Jalal-Abad Province police officer Tashtemir Saliyev told Caravanserai.
"Regular prevention meetings in local communities, block committees, mosques, schools, and state institutions are helping citizens recognise the danger that 'jihadists' conceal," he said.
Alert and informed citizens help identify suspicious individuals who lead closed lives or those who keep to themselves and avoid meeting with fellow villagers or friends, Saliyev said.
"Such people aren't difficult to identify," he said. "If citizens notice that their loved ones, neighbours, colleagues or former classmates stop taking part in village life or have stopped coming to festivals or funerals, that alerts them to check out what they are doing."
Parents to protect youth from radical views
Nobody wants his or her relatives to be duped by extremist recruiters who use the internet and social media, Mekhrikhon Kayumova, a mother of five from Jalal-Abad, said.
"Virtually every high school or college student now has a smartphone or computer with internet access," she told Caravanserai. "Parents ... need to watch over their children and, if need be, scroll through their messages."
Adults should regularly talk with friends and family to keep them from falling for extremism's message, Kayumova said.
"If we don't protect our own children, they could become victims of the so-called jihad," she warned. "I urge all parents to take this problem seriously."