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Militants Arrested In Kyrgyzstan Trained In Syria, Security Forces Say

Islamist fighters hold up their weapons during their graduation ceremony at a camp in Syria, near Damascus, in November 2013.

Islamist fighters hold up their weapons during their graduation ceremony at a camp in Syria, near Damascus, in November 2013.

Four alleged militants arrested in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh underwent military training in Syria, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Radio Azattyk, reports.

According to Radio Azattyk on January 27, a total of six alleged militants were arrested. Rakhat Sulaimanov, the spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (GKNB) told Radio Azattyk that the detained men were allegedly planning attacks in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

"Four members of the group underwent special training in a training camp belonging to an international terrorist organization in Syria," Sulaimanov said, adding that weapons including an AK-S assault rifle were found during a search of the suspects' homes, as well as ammunition, masks and fake documents.

Sulaimanov did not give any indication about which militant group the four suspects allegedly trained with in Syria.

It is not clear how many Kyrgyz nationals are fighting in Syria. Recent estimates by political figures in Kyrgyzstan have ranged from 225 to over 500.

A report released this month by the International Crisis Group on Central Asians fighting with the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria noted that "perhaps 1,000 men and women, including 500 ethnic Kyrgyz and others from Osh, have left the Ferghana Valley to fight or provide humanitarian assistance for IS." The report also said that there could be at least 300 unreported cases of Kyrgyz citizens who traveled to Turkey with the intention of going on to Syria, and noted that ethnic Uzbeks from the Ferghana Valley, including Osh, are also fighting in Syria.

Others have estimated that the number of Kyrgyz nationals fighting in Syria is higher than the official figure of around 200. Radio Azattyk quoted security expert Artur Medetbekov as saying that the number of militants in Syria from Kyrgyzstan was up to three times higher than the official data.

While the overwhelming majority of Kyrgyz citizens who have left to fight in Syria are from the south of the country, GKNB spokesman Sulaimanov said this month that recruiters have recently begun to target the country's northern regions.

-- 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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