ASTANA -- Kazakhstan is introducing new security procedures at railway stations and airports to safeguard passengers and prevent terrorist attacks, officials said.
Kazakhstani police will carry out security screenings at 16 railway stations, while the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN agency that sets international standards for civil aviation, will conduct safety inspections for Kazakhstan's airports.
Improving railway security
Passenger and baggage screening was introduced February 1 at Almaty-1 and Almaty-2 railway stations, according to the Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) public affairs office.
The same procedures will be carried out beginning April 1 at the Astana railway station and from June 1 at Kazakhstan's remaining 13 railway stations.
Railway authorities acquired 56 screening units that scan baggage and hand luggage to carry out new security procedures.
"The screening procedure is being instituted to increase passenger safety and provide for a level of protection against terrorists," the KTZ statement reads.
Under normal circumstances, inspections will be done selectively, and passengers who raise suspicions will have their baggage checked, said Juban Korpebayev, director of KTZ's Railroad Administration Department.
However, if a high terrorist threat level is announced, all passengers at railroad stations will undergo screening, he told Caravanserai.
At the railroad station in Kyzylorda February 3, a police K-9 handler carrying out an inspection explained the procedures.
"At railroad stations in Kazakhstan, the police use sniffer dogs to detect drugs and explosives," the officer told Caravanserai, requesting anonymity. "Everything is done to ensure passenger safety. These are routine checks."
Informational posters hanging in the waiting areas at railroad stations throughout the country urge passengers to be exercise vigilance toward suspicious passengers and raise awareness on how to behave in case of a terrorist attack.
"When you buy tickets, the agents are already recommending that you arrive early because it takes time to screen baggage," Almaty resident Anatoliy Razonov told Caravanserai. "All people who are reasonable understand that this is a fight against terrorism."
Air travel safety
Kazakhstan's parliament ratified on December 12 legislative amendments "concerning airspace management and aviation best practices", the parliament's official website reported, noting that the ICAO will conduct safety inspections for Kazakhstan's airports.
The bill envisages measures to improve security against terrorist threats, Kazakhstanskaya Pravda reported.
"This codifies the obligation to carry out inspections at the entrance to the passenger terminal," Minister for Investments and Development Jenis Kasymbek said according to the newspaper.
He said funds have been allocated to airports from the state budget to tighten security, including for the purchase of additional screening equipment, video equipment and scanners.
The new security procedures have been welcomed by frequent travelers.
"My family and I often travel, and I also take international flights for my business trips," said Aynash Omorova of Taraz. "They do these sorts of inspections everywhere."
"These measures can stop terrorists and, ultimately, save hundreds of lives," she told Caravanserai. "Female security officers check women, so there is no embarrassment."
Preventing attacks, terrorist recruiters
Railroad stations and airports are considered to be facilities vulnerable to terrorism, according to officials.
Rail transport can also be used by recruiters from criminal and terrorist organisations, security officials warn.
For example, in 2015, law enforcement agencies from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in a joint operation managed to eliminate a criminal organisation and its activity on international trains traveling through Kazakhstan, Tengrinews.kz reported October 27, 2016.
Last year, terrorists in Kazakhstan -- two Kazakhs and one Kyrgyz national --planned an attack using an airplane.
"Religious radicals were keeping tabs on airliners at Taldykorgan Airport. The terrorists planned to hijack a plane and use it to attack various facilities," the KTK TV channel reported September 5, 2016.
The terrorists who planned the hijacking were arrested, according to the National Security Committee's Anti-Terror Centre.