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Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek Preparing Ground for Crackdown on Religious Radicals

January 5, 2011

The following article is reprinted with permission from EurasiaNet. (Map added by Inteltrends.)

Kyrgyzstan:  Bishkek Preparing Ground for Crackdown on Religious Radicals
©  EurasiaNet
By Deirdre Tynan
January 5, 2011

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan appear to be laying the groundwork for a broad crackdown on perceived religious radicals, following January 4 firefights that left four law-enforcement officers and two alleged militants dead.

Top security officials in Bishkek described the incidents as a call to arms against perceived Islamic militants. “A war has been declared on all of us… We must distinguish between good and evil. Today evil is wearing the mask of a believer, trying to intimidate us, to cause panic and division,” Interior Minister Zarylbek Rysaliyev was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

Kyrgyz authorities have cast the militants responsible for the January 4 shootings as “jihadis” connected to a bomb blast on November 30 at the Sports Palace and a foiled Christmas day car bomb attempt at police headquarters in Bishkek.

Three police officers were killed in a southern suburb on the evening of January 4 amid a “routine” document check near an apartment complex. The suspects opened fire with automatic weapons unexpectedly after being stopped. They then fled the scene, authorities said on January 5.

Hours later, the militants were cornered in an abandoned house near Arashan village, south of the capital. One militant blew himself up, another was shot and killed, and a third was seriously wounded and taken into custody. An officer from the elite Alfa unit also died during the gunfire exchange. According to local news sources, the dead Alfa unit member was to face trial for his alleged role in the April 7 events that toppled ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. More than 80 protestors died during those initial protests.

Without producing evidence to substantiate their claims, security officials asserted the suspects were affiliated with an unnamed Islamic radical group. “This is a religious extremist group whose activists and leaders were trained in specialized camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are adherents of radical persuasions and the brains behind the group aim to create a caliphate on the territory of the Ferghana valley,” Marat Imankulov, the first deputy chairman of the State National Security Committee, told the 24.kg news agency on January 5.

Separately in Bishkek on January 5, human rights activists and the families of nine suspects previously arrested in connection with the November blast at the Sports Palace, which is being used as a make-shift court house, said the cases against them are fabricated. They also say that their confessions were obtained via the use of torture.

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Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based reporter specializing in Central Asian affairs.

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