| Terrorism

Kyrgyzstan thwarts extremists

By Sanzhar Sharipov


Confiscated extremist materials are shown in Bishkek November 10. [GKNB photo obtained by Sanzhar Sharipov]

BISHKEK -- Authorities in Kyrgyzstan are holding 12 suspected extremists whom they arrested in Bishkek city and in Chui Province.

"Every one of them belonged to the main cell of [an extremist organisation]," State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Rakhat Sulaimanov told Caravanserai. "We identified their media platform ... which they used to receive guidance and illegal literature."

Foreign centres of that organisation sent the literature to the Kyrgyz network so that it could disseminate it nationwide, Sulaimanov said.

The propaganda "contained appeals to overthrow the government and establish a theocratic 'caliphate' in our country," he said.

Law enforcement is still identifying other suspects in connection with the case, Sulaimanov said.

The authorities on November 10, in the course of their investigation, opened a criminal case against the suspects, Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman Bakytbek Asanaliyev told Caravanserai.

"We seized a sizable amount of extremist literature, electronic storage devices, and office equipment ... from the 12 detainees' residences," he said.

Growth in activity

Members of like-minded illegal groups that try to sow discord between Muslims and other residents of Kyrgyzstan have recently stepped up their activity, Asanaliyev said.

Vigilant citizens can help law enforcement eliminate non-traditional religious movements, he said.

Authorities are concerned that some misguided citizens have fallen so profoundly for extremism's message that they went to Syria.

About 600 Kyrgyz are fighting there as militants, the MVD press office says.

Extremists in Kyrgyzstan "distribute brochures and leaflets in several languages, including Russian, in [Bishkek's] markets," Saipidin Raimjanov, a Bishkek fixed-route taxi driver, told Caravanserai. "They even left some copies of their literature a few times on my micro-bus."

"Now, in addition to that, they're circulating their extremist appeals on the internet and social media and even through text messages."

Solving the problem through force would be difficult, Raimjanov said. He suggested more-active involvement by clergy, namely, having it reach out to non-mosque-going Muslims, not just to the devout.

"It's frightening how some citizens use Islam as a pretext to engage in crime and sow discord among Muslims," Raimjanov said.

Raimjanov is willing to paste anti-extremism posters on his micro-bus and is convinced that doing so would help fight extremism, he said.

Muslims are learning the truth

Every day, more and more Muslims learn that Islam is on the opposite end of the spectrum from terrorism, Joomart haji Toktorbayev, a mosque imam in Chui Province, told Caravanserai.

"Outreach work in mosques, schools, villages and cities is bearing good results," he said. "Today, virtually every Muslim knows the danger of radical ideas."

The clergy and the authorities should conduct outreach work constantly to shrink the ranks of extremists and their sympathisers, Toktorbayev said.

In a recent interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Aleksei Malashenko, a fellow at the Dialogue of Civilisations Research Institute in Berlin, Germany, described the difficulty of fighting radicalisation in Central Asia.

"Fighting radicalism is like fighting the weather," he told RFE/RL. "You can open up your umbrella ... but you have to bear in mind that some rain will get through somehow."

Extremists are not easily stereotyped as an ill-educated rabble, he argued. "Some of them have college degrees, even doctorates," he said. "One is a professor. There could be more."

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