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Tajikistan Suspects Turkish Man Of Recruiting For IS Militants

  • RFE/RL's Tajik Service

DUSHANBE -- Authorities in Tajikistan have detained a Turkish citizen of Afghan origin on suspicion of recruiting for the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

The State Committee for National Security said on May 4 that 50-year-old Mehdi Yakus arrived in Tajikistan on March 16, officially as a tourist, and soon came under suspicion.

Officials said Yakus stayed in a village populated mainly by ethnic Uzbeks in the western Rudaki district, where he promised to find jobs in Turkey for four local residents in their 20s.

Authorities launched an investigation after they learned that Yakus planned to settle the four Tajiks in a Turkish village close to the border with Syria, where IS militants are fighting government forces.

The announcement of his detention comes two months after Tajikistan's prosecutor-general, Yusuf Rahmonov, said that a special center tasked with investigating cases of recruitment to banned Islamic groups would begin operating soon.

In December 2014, President Emomali Rahmon publicly accepted that young Tajiks had been joining militants in the Middle East and described the IS extremist group as a "modern plague" that poses a "threat to global security."

Rahmon said then that hundreds of Tajiks fighting alongside IS militants abroad "bring instability to society at home as well."

In March, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia planned to bolster its military bases in Tajikistan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan due to what he said was increased activity of IS "units" in ex-Soviet Central Asia.

The International Crisis Group has estimated that 2,000 to 4,000 people from Central Asia have gone to Syria over the last three years to join Islamist militants.