DUSHANBE -- The deadly attack on foreign bicyclists in Tajikistan July 29 might reflect an increased recruiting focus by the "Islamic State" (IS) on adolescents and teenagers, said a number of Tajik analysts and officials, according to a report Sunday (August 5) by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)'s Tajik service.
Assailants drove their car into a group of bicycling tourists and jumped out and stabbed them, killing four of them and injuring two. A seventh bicyclist escaped harm.
Police have killed four suspects and arrested another 11, including the sole surviving suspected attacker. IS claimed responsibility for the slayings.
The episode, in which four of the five alleged killers were only 18 or 19 years old, demonstrates how IS has adapted its online recruiting strategy after military defeat in Syria and Iraq, according to several Tajik analysts.
Formerly, IS recruiting videos showed much older Tajiks, with beards and guns, fighting in those countries. Now IS is using its videos to attract impressionable teenagers and other youths without urging them to travel to the Middle East.
"In my work, [we arrested] a juvenile who wanted to join the extremists solely because he liked the sound of gunfire," a Tajik security official told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity.
In July, security forces arrested four 17- and 18-year-olds who were trying to cross into Afghanistan to join IS, Mukhabbat Abdullozoda, director of the Tajik Drug Control Agency's Kulyab office, told RFE/RL.
Such youths want to feel needed and significant, said Gulchekhra Gulmirzoyeva, a psychologist who works with teenagers. "At that moment, [extremist] groups appear. They persuade the teenagers that ... they can become heroes," she said.
When extremist groups have military strength, as IS once did, "they fight like a state", analyst Rustam Azizi told RFE/RL. "When they don't, they carry out isolated terrorist acts."