Kyrgyzstan has endured nothing short of a plague of Islamist-inspired terrorism in 2015, if the authorities are to be believed.
In the latest apparent blow against militants, the security services announced on December 11 that they killed two dangerous terrorist suspects during a special operation in the capital, Bishkek.
Officials have said the men were guilty of the murder of a police officer on November 19. According to their account, the suspects shot Aktilek Abduvaliyev three times from a 9 millimeter Makarov pistol.
The alleged perpetrators turned out to be hardened criminals perviously convicted for robbery, illegal arms possession and inciting interethnic and religious hatred.
Four Makarov pistols, a grenade, the makings of an improvised explosive device and several mobile phones were found on the men, according to the state security service.
Following a pattern established after other recent shootouts with purported terrorists, the authorities claimed that the suspects were planning attacks in Bishkek and the surrounding Chui region.
In a curious detail, authorities pointed out that the pair used bicycles to move around. Equally strangely, the now-dead suspects are said to be members of a group called Jaysh al-Mahdi.
Government guidance on this organization describes it as arising from the eponymous Shia militia that came to prominence in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Kyrgyzstan is an overwhelming majority Sunni Muslim country, making the claims of an active Shia armed group troublesome to square.
Indeed, the security services appear to be having trouble recalling whom they have accused of belonging to which terrorist organization. The two men killed this week are said to have been operating under the command of organized crime boss Tariel Djumagulov.
Djumagulov was killed in July during an hours-long clash in Bishkek between special forces and members of what the authorities claimed was an Islamic State cell.
A state television report on the December 11 clash likened “the wave of terror” gripping Kyrgyzstan as being part of a broader international pattern — an apparent allusion to the attacks in Paris and the bombing a Russian airliner in Egypt.
“Not only terrorist attacks are being plotted. Instructions have also been given to neutralize unfavorable public figures,” the report said in reference to the recent knife attack on Kadyr Malikov, a self-styled expert on religious matters with a penchant for talking up the threat of Islamic radicalism.
Malikov insisted in the moments after the attack against him that he had fallen victim to an assault ordered by the Islamic State group. He later said from hospital that he had learned of instructions to assassinate him being issued from within Islamic State’s Syrian bastion.
“This year, terrorist groups belonging to Islamic State in the city of Raqqa in Iraq (sic) passed a verdict on my physical neutralization,” he said.
Other than making unverifiable claims about Islamic State plans for Central Asia, it is unclear how Malikov is supposed to have drawn the animus of the terrorist organization, whose operations have tended to be larger in ambition thus far.
All the same, Kyrgyzstan’s Interior Ministry and security services quickly lent their support to Malikov’s theory and say that two people suspected of the mounting the attack against him have been detained by police in Turkey.
Kyrgyzstan’s government is intent on conveying the impression that the country is under siege.
“This pestilence has not left our country untouched. Over the last five years, the spread of religious extremism has actively worked its way into our lives — every family and every government body understands what danger this poses,” the security services’ antiterrorism agency thundered in a November 25 press release.
“According to the latest official data, around 500 Kyrgyz citizens have gone to battle zones in Syria and Iraq. That includes 120 women — adherents of the so-called Islamic State,” former security services deputy head Artur Medetbekov said in remarks quoted in the press release.
Medetbekov also noted in those remarks that there was information that the Islamic State group had allocated $70 million to spreading its armed campaigns to Central Asia.
He didn’t specify how he had come by that information, but it was telling that the same figure was first mentioned in public by none other than Malikov, who also failed to provide any supporting evidence other than his own purported authority.