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'I Support IS And Would Fight In Syria,' Says Kyrgyzstan's 'Coal King'


A photo of Kyrgyz politician Nurlan Motuev from his Facebook page.

A photo of Kyrgyz politician Nurlan Motuev from his Facebook page.

Outspoken Kyrgyz politician Nurlan Motuev has made headlines in Kyrgyzstan after telling reporters he supported the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and would go to Syria to fight.

Motuev is known for his eccentric remarks and earned the nickname "the Coal King" in 2005 after a group of people claiming to be members of his Patriotic People's Movement (Joomart) seized coal mines in the village of Karakeche.

"I'd go to Syria, but the GNKB (the State Committee for National Security, Kyrgyzstan's intelligence agency) filed a case against me for my jihadist rhetoric, and probably they wouldn't let me leave Kyrgyzstan; they'd arrest me," Motuev lamented on March 24.

Motuev claimed that, although a criminal case had been opened against him, the GKNB were "not saying anything."

"They call me for questioning, then release me," he added.

The GKNB's press service would not confirm or deny that any criminal case had been opened against Motuev and simply refused to comment on the matter, according to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Radio Azzatyk.

Motuev also said that he was ready to organize an Islamic revolution at home in Kyrgyzstan, according to the Vesti.kg news website.

Motuev's expression of support for IS came after he invited the Kyrgyz government to live under Shari'a law.

Motuev, who according to the Gazeta.kg news website referred to himself as the "emir [commander] of the true Muslims of Kyrgyzstan," called on the country to submit to God's commands.

"It has been 10 years since the 2005 revolution and five years after the April revolution of 2010. Since then, nothing has changed in the lives of the people of Kyrgyzstan, not economically, not politically and not in the social sphere. On the contrary, life has gotten worse. Electricity, heating, consumer goods, food products have all risen in price, while inflation eats small wage rises," Motuev said.

While Motuev's statements regarding IS were widely reported in the Kyrgyz media, not everyone found them amusing.

Kadyr Malikov, who runs the Bishkek-based independent think-tank Religion, Law and Politics, and who is a regular commentator on matters relating to the Islamic State group and extremism in Kyrgyzstan, complained to Vesti.kg that Motuev's comments could have a detrimental effect, especially on young people who are seeking to travel to Syria to join IS.

"Motuev's statements are dangerous. After all, there are those who will take them seriously," Malikov said.

According to Malikov, Motuev's remarks about IS could also "indirectly strengthen an incorrect understanding of Islam for those people who are prepared to go to the Middle East."

Malikov said that he was certain the Kyrgyz intelligence services were tracking Motuev.

"But the issue of information security also needs to be addressed. Such statements, via the media, influence the situation in the country. To this we can add the danger from IS, which cannot be overlooked," Malikov said.

The issue of "information security" -- what constitutes IS and other extremist propaganda and whether the media should be allowed to report it -- has become an important issue in Kyrgyzstan. The editors of the Bishkek-based Kloop.kg complained last year that their site was taken offline after they published a news report about an IS propaganda video featuring a group of Kazakh children undergoing military training in Syria.

While the exact numbers of Kyrgyz nationals fighting in Syria are unknown, official figures say around 250 individuals from Kyrgyzstan have joined the ranks of IS.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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