Kyrgyzstan on alert for citizens returning from Syria

By Erkin Kamalov

Syrian troops celebrate capturing Aleppo on December 23. Many Kyrgyz militants are returning home after a series of losses in Syria. [George Ourfalian/AFP]

Syrian troops celebrate capturing Aleppo on December 23. Many Kyrgyz militants are returning home after a series of losses in Syria. [George Ourfalian/AFP]

BISHKEK -- Law enforcement agencies are strengthening their monitoring of suspected Kyrgyz militants who are streaming home as defeat looms for opposition and jihadist forces in Syria, officials say.

More than 600 Kyrgyz have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the militancy since 2011, officials said earlier this year.

Authorities on December 25 arrested two Kyrgyz returnees from Syria in Uch-Korgon village, Batken Province.

"They are giving pre-trial statements," Arstan Kutmanov, a spokesman for the State Committee on National Security (GKNB), told Caravanserai.

Further details are not yet available in the interests of protecting the investigation, he said, adding that authorities are trying to find out more about recruiters and Kyrgyz combatants in Syria, Kutmanov added.

Tension rising

In another security success on November 29, police and security forces on the outskirts of Bishkek detained "S. Sh.", 31, a native of Jalal-Abad Province who had become an extremist, police reported in mid-December.

"While searching his home ... we seized five improvised explosive devices (IEDs)," Abdysatar Ismailov, an Interior Ministry (MVD) spokesman, told Caravanserai.

The IEDs were armed and ready for use in a public place, he said.

The searchers also found printed literature and electronic media containing radical ideas, he said, adding that the suspect's "mother and brother are in prison for extremist activity".

"S. Sh." has admitted under questioning that he has accomplices who seek to destabilise the country with a series of terrorist attacks, Ismailov said.

"Attempts by 'jihadists' will only increase against the backdrop of militants retreating in Syria," Kutmanov said. "After [their defeat in] Aleppo, they have become enraged and are prepared to ... retaliate anywhere in the world, as has already occurred in Berlin and Ankara."

The tense situation now makes public support of authorities essential, he said.

Alert villagers have been tipping off police if a suspected ex-insurgent who had been gone for months or years suddenly re-appears, he added.

That said, authorities see the need for more work.

They need to bolster campaigns of outreach and awareness raising, Kutmanov said, citing the value of warning the public of the punishment awaiting militants who went to the Middle East and their enablers.

From battlefield to prison

Some militants who came back are paying the price, including one Ilkhamjan Alimjanov.

"On November 30, the Jalal-Abad Provincial Court upheld a lower court's sentencing ... of Ilkhamjan Alimjanov, an [insurgent] from Jalal-Abad," Kutmanov said.

Alimjanov will serve 13 years "for fighting in the Middle East", Kutmanov said.

Alimjanov, 33, entered Syria in February, received combat training as a member of the Imam Bukhari Jamaat militant group, and returned to Kyrgyzstan in September, Kutmanov added.

Alimjanov regrets his reckless decision, brought on by stupidity and naivete, his attorney, Mederbek Kamaldinov, told Caravanserai.

The convicted militant has three children, Kamaldinov said, adding that many militants are trickling home now after realising that they were duped.

However, he advised segregating convicted extremists from other prisoners, because some extremists might still want to proselytise the other convicts.

The number of incarcerated extremists has exceeded triple digits, authorities say.

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Authorities need to rid peaceful society of this bearded scum in the form of the deceitful, satanic sect of Salafites distorting the definition of jihad with their dogmatic interpretation of Allah's truth.