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Central Asia in Focus: ISKP Members Detained in Kyrgyzstan

In this week’s edition: multiple ISKP members were detained in Kyrgyzstan, a Tajik town lives in fear of mysterious men in black, and more.

An undated video still shows Hafiz Saeed founder of IS-K, on ​​the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in January 2015.
AFGHANISTAN – An undated video still shows Hafiz Saeed (center), founder of IS-K, on ​​the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in January 2015. Photo: Twitter.

In the Region

ISKP Members Detained in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security (UKMK) detained 15 people connected to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization.

The UKMK press service said suspects were taken into custody in the capital Bishkek and “other regions” of the country.

Raids on the suspects’ homes uncovered a “large quantity of literature” that state experts are reviewing.

The UKMK said some of the 15 suspected ISKP militants were posting videos of how to use guns, knives, and prepare homemade explosive devices.

One of the group’s leaders was recruited through social networks used by IS in Afghanistan, according to UKMK’s statement.

The IS group in Afghanistan is an offshoot of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), a group that has claimed responsibility for the attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall in March that killed more than 140 people.

ISKP also took responsibility for the January 3 attack on a commemorative ceremony for General Qasem Soleimani in the southern Iranian city of Kerman that killed more than 90 people.

Citizens of Tajikistan were blamed for both those attacks and for earlier ISKP strikes in Turkey and Afghanistan.

Tajik nationals were also among suspected ISKP members detained in Germany and Austria in late December 2023.

More recently, officials in the United States said eight IS members have been detained in operations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York.

All are citizens of Tajikistan who illegally crossed into the United States from Mexico.

Why It’s Important: Given ISKP’s expanding global reach, it is not surprising that the Afghanistan-based terrorist group has members in Kyrgyzstan.

ISKP has been focusing its propaganda on Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for many months.

This is a concern for those two governments and now it appears Kyrgyzstan also has reason to worry. 

Tajik Town Lives in Fear of Men in Black

Residents in and around the northern Tajik city of Konibodom say they don’t sleep well at night since the murders of at least 13 people and the appearance of men in black clothing and masks.

For more than two months, residents of the Konibodom area have been on edge after the first murders were reported and rumors spread of men in black breaking into people’s homes at night.

One person in the city posted images from a surveillance camera that showed a figure dressed in black trying to break into a house at night.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service interviewed people in Konibodom about the men in black.

Residents of the city said people from at least five different families living in the area have been killed in the last two months.

During the night of May 28-29, six people from two different families were killed.

During the night of April 16-17, a man and his wife were killed in their home, and, at the end of March, five members of a family, including two children, were killed in their home.

On June 11, Mahsuda Kodirova and her daughter were sitting in the courtyard of their home when, suddenly, a man in black appeared and walked toward them.

“We screamed and ran into the street,” Kodirova said.

She called the police, who took an hour to arrive. Police told her they had received many similar calls in the past two days about men in black trying to break into homes.

Ashurali Sobirov, a 90-year-old Konibodom resident, said his family sleeps with pitchforks, axes, and knives next to their beds. He said people are afraid to go out at night and are thinking of forming neighborhood patrols.

Why It’s Important: Such bizarre and frightening events would be disturbing anywhere in the world, but these sorts of incidents have not happened before anywhere in Central Asia.

What is interesting is that residents of Konibodom say police are unable to catch this man or these men in black.

If someone was lurking around the streets of any city or village in Tajikistan engaging in anti-government activities, they would likely have been caught in a matter of days. 

Majlis Podcast

The most recent Majlis podcast looks at the rise of Turkish influence in Central Asia, particularly how the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) is helping to bring most of Central Asia closer to Turkey.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are OTS members and Turkmenistan is an observer, though Turkmen officials have indicated the country will become a full member later this year.

The guests on the podcast are: 

What I’m Following

Uzbek Diplomat Released from Prison

Former Uzbek diplomat Kadyr Yusupov was freed from an Uzbek prison on June 10.

Yusupov’s case was mysterious from the beginning.

A career diplomat, Yusupov attempted to end his life by jumping in front of a Tashkent metro train in December 2018.

Yusupov, who suffers from schizophrenia, was taken to a hospital with broken ribs and a concussion.

He was questioned there by security service representatives and, based on what he told them, Yusupov was charged with spying for “the West.”

He was convicted of treason at a closed trial in January 2020 and sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Yusupov was released because his sentence, which officially started with his December 2018 arrest, had expired. 


Turkmen Journalist Freed from Prison

Turkmen journalist Nurgeldi Halykov was released from prison on June 8 after being incarcerated for four years.

Halykov was summoned by police on July 13, 2020, the day after he forwarded a photograph to the Europe-based media outlet

Halykov had been working for since 2017.

The photograph showed members of a World Health Organization mission at an Ashgabat hotel.

The WHO representatives were there to consult with Turkmen officials about the spreading COVID pandemic, but the Turkmen government and media did not tell citizens about the visit.

Turkmenistan’s government denied there were any cases of COVID in the country and still maintains to this day that no one in the country contracted the virus.

Officially, Halykov was convicted of fraud for allegedly failing to repay a loan he received from an acquaintance.  


Fact of the Week

Four Central Asian countries were on the recently released UNICEF Child Food Poverty list of low- and medium-income countries.

The problem of nutrition deprivation in early childhood was rated as “high” in Tajikistan, “medium” in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and “low” in Turkmenistan.

Thanks for Reading

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Until next time,

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