Kyrgyzstan steps up security measures

By Bakyt Ibraimov

Kyrgyz security personnel May 23 in Osh attend a talk about co-operating with the public in fighting extremism and extremism. [DUMK photo obtained by Bakyt Ibraimov]

Kyrgyz security personnel May 23 in Osh attend a talk about co-operating with the public in fighting extremism and extremism. [DUMK photo obtained by Bakyt Ibraimov]

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz authorities are stepping up security in reaction to the June 5 terrorist attacks in Aktobe, Kazakhstan.

On that day, a group of terrorists killed seven Kazakhstanis in attacks on two gun shops and a military base. Authorities over the next week said they had killed or captured all the suspects.

The Kyrgyz government is stepping up security at strategic facilities like hydro-power stations, military bases and airports, the Interior Ministry (MVD) said in a June 6 statement. Police are on heightened alert.

Authorities are stepping up their efforts to find extremist sympathisers and are checking up on individuals who are on watchlists for attachment to organised crime and extremist groups.

"We are conducting large-scale operations in cities ... airports and other places where people gather in large numbers," the MVD said.

Public-police co-operation essential

Security is a job for the public, not just for police, Keneshbek Sainazarov, Kyrgyz country director of the international NGO Search for Common Ground, told Central Asia Online.

"We must have close [police] co-operation with the public to ensure that everyone understands that his own life and the lives of loved ones, neighbours and friends depend on every citizen," he said.

Dialogue rather than demonisation is the answer, Sainazarov said, adding that vilifying extremist groups will only strengthen their influence.

"We need dialogue to remedy the situation," he said. "During the past three years, we have held many training sessions about countering extremism. Participants included security and intelligence agency personnel, who heard recommendations about co-operating closely with the public."

A security crackdown in Kyrgyzstan is completely understandable after the bloodshed in Aktobe, Igor Shestakov, a Bishkek political scientist and co-chairman of the Kyrgyz Club of Regional Experts, told Central Asia Online.

"it is quite possible that [extremists] will want to commit terrorist acts in Kyrgyzstan too," he said. "Kyrgyz authorities must be prepared for any development."

Shestakov advised more Kyrgyz co-operation with Kazakhstani security forces and with regional organisations.

Strong civil society

Kyrgyzstan benefits from strong civil society, Shestakov said.

"We have more than 10,000 active NGOs, and the MVD has its own public oversight council," he said. "The resources for co-operation exist."

Security measures should be constant, not subject to fluctuation, Zalina Abdulkhakova, an Osh attorney, told Central Asia Online. Terrorists take advantage of the inconsistency, she said.

"First, we need normal financing and oversight of the use of funding in the ... the Defence Ministry, GKNB [State National Security Committee] and other security agencies," she said. "Second, we need outreach work among the public."

Distortions of Islam lead to extremism, she said. "All the concepts [of Islam] need to be explained and translated into local languages," she added.

"We need to control the pseudo-Islamic groups," political scientist Nurlan Namatov, a Bishkek native, told Central Asia Online. "Otherwise, you end up with something like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan, which nobody controls."

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