NUR-SULTAN -- A recently released documentary film by the National Security Committee (KNB) raises issues of terrorist recruiting and security in the region, while providing information for the public to help fight this threat.
The documentary titled "The Price of Peace. The North" aired on Kazakh television on October 4 and later was posted on the YouTube to reach a wider audience.
This is the second film in a planned series that describes the battle against terrorism and drug trafficking in the north of the country.
The first film was shown at the end of July and showed the security agencies' anti-extremism work in the west of Kazakhstan.
Chronicles of terror
Terrorism often depends on narcotics revenues, which is why the film recounts the combat against drug trafficking.
While most synthetic drugs are brought to Kazakhstan from abroad, last year an underground laboratory began operating in Kostanay Province. The film shows the discovery of a criminal group producing drugs, with its boss residing in Russia. The ring distributed the drugs in Kazakhstan and shipped them by mail to other countries.
The next storyline of the documentary tells about the events of 2016, when would-be suicide bombers disguised themselves as fishermen in Gulshat village.
A KNB informant reported at the time that a group of men were buying metal pipes and electrical wires and conducting welding work in their house, which alerted law enforcement agencies.
Investigators found out that the men used the pipes filled with explosives to make so-called suicide belts. Under the influence of propaganda videos by the "Islamic State" (IS), the terrorists planned attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
During a raid by authorities, one of the extremists blew himself up and another eight members of the terrorist group were detained. They received prison sentences of eight to 14 years.
"These days all the information is on the internet; terrorists can assemble an explosive device from materials at hand like household chemicals and wires," Chingiz Iskakov, a deputy department chief at the KNB office in Karaganda Province, said in the film.
Illegal migration and terrorism
Prison does not always help in rehabilitating extremists.
The documentary relates the tale of ex-convicts who picked up radical views in prison. Upon their release, they recruited and sent terrorists to the Afghan-Pakistani border zone.
"They downloaded the 'Combat Bulletin' manual from the internet, learned how to wage guerrilla warfare with the use of IEDs, and mastered the skills of conspiracy," said Bulat Musabekov, a department chief at the KNB office in Kostanay Province, in the film.
At the stage of preparing to leave Kazakhstan, the offenders conducted common crimes including car theft, he said. With the help of an accomplice, they plotted to enter Kyrgyzstan illegally in the trunk of a car and then proceed to Turkey and Afghanistan.
Kazakh and Kyrgyz security agencies co-operated in capturing the extremists in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
"Routes for illegal migration and general migration streams can be used by terrorist ... organisations," Jankozy Kadyrbekov, director of the KNB's Kostanay Province office, said in the film. "People who are wanted internationally for participating in terrorist activities can blend into those streams. They actively use these routes for illegal migration [too]."
The tasks of the KNB include monitoring and de-radicalising inmates convicted of extremism and terrorism, he said, adding that theologians are involved in this work.
"Illegal migration is dangerous because migrants may include members of international terrorist organisations," Kendebai Adambekov, director of the KNB's Karaganda Province office, said in the film. "The conflict in Syria is now coming to an end; a guerrilla war is under way. More than 100,000 militants were there. Where did the majority of them go? Not all leaders of those terrorist organisations have been killed. No one can guarantee that terrorist acts will not be aimed at Central Asia, including Kazakhstan."
'We must talk ... about terrorism'
"We must talk to the public about terrorism as a serious crime. Indeed, terrorists often take hostages; innocent civilians become their victims. We need to know the rules of conduct when living with the threat of terrorist acts. Psychologists need to be taught how to talk to victims," said Kadisha Mukanova of Uralsk, director of the NGO Jayyk Dausy (Voice of the Ural River).
West Kazakhstan Province alone has 26 women and 66 children who returned from Syria, she said.
"This is a big number. Careful work must be done with them," Mukanova said.
"Even children need to watch such films," said Berik Kaliyev from Taraz, who watched the film with his family.
"We watched this video and commented a lot while we watched because it is impossible not to care," he said. "The main conclusions -- people are duped and go to fight someone else's war. In addition, there are many common criminals among these militants. But how can anyone plan mass killings of your own compatriots or prepare terrorist attacks? It's completely mind-boggling."