BISHKEK -- As Kyrgyz militants trickle home from Syria and Iraq, the threat to their homeland is a real one, warn observers.
Tailing a suspected militant who came back from Syria recently paid off for authorities in August.
"On August 26, Javokhirbek K., 20, who fought in Syria and returned to Kyrgyzstan July 13 [via an airline flight] ... was detained in Osh," Osh city police official Taalai Saipidinov told Caravanserai.
Authorities had been watching Javokhirbek during his month and a half in Osh, said Saipidinov, adding that they used the intelligence to break up his and his friends' plot to destabilise the country.
"During the investigation, [Javokhirbek] admitted going to Syria in 2016 and fighting as part of the ... terrorist group Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad," Saipidinov said, referring to a pro-"Islamic State" (ISIS) group.
Security personnel who searched Javokhirbek's residence found a computer that he used to contact leaders of that group, said authorities, adding that they found a shotgun, a subscriber identity module (SIM) card with a Turkish number, and 32 disks of extremist material.
"Through him, we got wind of a terrorist group that, on the eve of Independence Day [August 31], was plotting terrorist attacks in Bishkek and in [the rest of] Chui Province," State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Ulanbek Jalildinov told Caravanserai.
4 more suspects nabbed or killed
However, authorities still had four more suspects to pursue. They caught one, identified only, as M. B., August 28 in Jayyl District, said Jalildinov.
M. B. had a revolver, ammunition in different calibres, magazines for a Makarov pistol and various electronic storage devices in his car and his residence, added Jalildinov.
"Twenty-hours later, the night of August 28-29, we determined the location of the last three members," said Jalildinov, identifying them as T. I., J. J. and K. D.
The trio, holed up in a hide-out in Jayyl District, Chui Province, "were offered the chance to surrender ... but opened fire instead", said Jalildinov.
Security forces killed two of them in the resulting gun battle and injured J. J., who is awaiting interrogation in a hospital when his condition improves. The GKNB suffered no casualties.
Plans to disrupt a national celebration
The five suspects were plotting to commit an armed attack and to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against Kyrgyz celebrating Independence Day in Bishkek and the rest of Chui Province, say authorities.
Javokhirbek and his accused confederates are not alone in endangering the country, predict authorities.
"More than 700 young people have left Kyrgyzstan for Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq [since 2011]," Bishkek-based security analyst Artur Medetbekov told Kyrgyz-language Kun Chekit radio in an interview in August. "Some of them have fled those countries ... and are returning home. Some are coming in secret."
"We see what's going on in Syria, Iraq and other countries," President Almazbek Atambayev said in Osh August 28, according to AKIpress.org. "People call themselves Muslims and kill innocent people, putting religion in a bad light."
The responsibility for stopping radicalised citizens bent on mayhem is going to fall on other Kyrgyz, not just on law enforcement and NGOs, said Bishkek resident Damira Karabayeva.
For example, ordinary bystanders have to report a suspicious bag or purse that might contain a bomb, she said.
"Our security is in our hands!" she declared.