Kyrgyzstan’s intelligence service has declared that it has foiled a terror plot with links reaching into Syria, which allegedly provided a training ground for three suspects now under arrest.
The State National Security Committee (known by its Russian acronym, GKNB) said in a statement on September 16 that it detained the three – two citizens of Kyrgyzstan and one of neighboring Kazakhstan – in late August in the southern city of Osh. The GKNB pointed out, with its typical dearth of detail, that the arrests happened in the run-up to a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek on September 13, but did not say why it is only now revealing the plot.
The GKNB said the three are members of Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is listed as a terrorist organization by the US government. The group was sent from Syria, where it had been fighting on the side of the rebels in the civil war, to Kyrgyzstan to commit “acts of sabotage and terrorism” in Bishkek and Osh, the GKNB said.
Two of the suspects were named by media as Sardor Rakhmonov and Mazhit Abdullayev, originally of Osh. The citizen of Kazakhstan – who has not been identified – has testified that the three trained in a militant camp in Syria, Tengri News reported, quoting the GKNB’s press service.
They were then told by their trainers “that we should help our Muslim brothers in Kyrgyzstan,” so they left for Osh, the suspect was quoted as saying. He outlined an elaborate plan involving kidnapping one of his relatives in Almaty for a ransom of $50,000, of which $20,000 would be sent to Turkey for onward dispatch to Syria “for the Uzbek jamoat [cell] to continue the jihad.” The rest was allegedly to be used to buy weapons, ammunition, and night-vision equipment to commit acts of terror in Kyrgyzstan.
There have been reports – not independently verified – of young people from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan fighting in Syria’s civil war, and a video has surfaced of a Kazakh-speaking militant calling for jihad in Syria.
Skeptics believe that the Central Asian security services have a vested interest in exaggerating both the threat posed by radicals and their own successes in containing it.
The IJU is best known for plotting to blow up a US airbase in Germany in 2007. In 2004 the group claimed responsibility for a spate of terrorist acts in Uzbekistan which left over 50 dead, including attacks on the security forces in Tashkent and Bukhara and suicide bombings of the US and Israeli embassies and prosecutor’s office in Tashkent.