Central Asian news outlets are playing down reports of a video that appears to show a Kazakh child militant executing two men. Some stories have been blocked entirely.
The video, released by Islamic State militants on January 13 and shared widely on social networks, is titled Uncovering The Enemy Within. It shows footage of the “confessions” of two men who say they were recruited by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to spy on militants in Syria.
The first man identifies himself as Zhanbolat Mamaev and says that he is from the Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan.
The second captive appears to be an ethnic Russian and identifies himself as Sergei Ashimov.
The two men later appear to be shot by the young Kazakh boy.
Although the release of the video was widely reported in the Russian media, there appear to be far fewer reports in Kazakhstan, and outlets that did report on the video omitted key details. Interfax.kz has a brief report on the video, but does not mention that one of the executed captives identifies as a Kazakh or that the child who appears to execute the two men is apparently also a Kazakh.
Reports by RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service on the video are not accessible in Kazakhstan.
The Delovoy Kazakhstan outlet has a longer report on the video, but also omits to mention that one captive says he is from Kazakhstan, even though its report gives the man’s name and age. The report also does not mention that the child militant shown in the video appears to be an ethnic Kazakh. The report does, however, include a screen capture from the video that shows the child militant.
That the reports on the video that have not been blocked in Kazakhstan omit to mention that the footage appears to include Kazakhs is not surprising.
In November, Islamic State released a video that showed a group of Kazakh nationals, including children, participating in military and ideological instruction in Syria. The video, named Race Toward Good, includes footage of a young ethnic Kazakh boy who says that when he grows up, he will be “the one who slaughters you, O kafir [infidel].”
The release of the video caused outrage in Kazakhstan, and the government moved to ban it immediately.
The furor in Kazakhstan over the video soon spread beyond the country’s borders to neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where media outlets that showed clips from it were asked to remove their reports. One Kyrgyz news portal, Kloop.kg, whose report on Race Toward Good included footage from the video, was blocked by the Kyrgyz government, a move that the site’s editors said was illegal.
Kloop.kg has published a fresh report on the January 12 IS video, but does not say that one of the captives identified himself as a Kazakh.
However, Kloop.kg does report that the child militant shown in the January 12 video appears to be the same boy as appeared in the November Race Toward Good video.
Russia’s Vedomosti news site reported on January 14 that Kazakhstan’s National Security Agency (NSC) intelligence agency had said that, “while we are refraining from making any comments, this information is now being checked.”
The Russian Embassy in Syria "is looking into the information suggesting that this could have been an execution of Russian citizens, particularly members of the Russian special services," embassy spokesman Oleg Samochkin told the Interfax news agency.
"So far, we do not have information to confirm that any of those shown is a Russian citizen," he said.
The FSB has declined to comment on the video.
Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (SCNS) told Kloop.kg that specialists from the Prosecutor-General's Office should study the video and that any comment on the video could only come after such an examination had occurred. The SCNS spokesman added that around 200 Kyrgyz citizens were fighting in IS.
It is not known how many Kazakh citizens are fighting in Syria, including with IS. National Security Committee (KNB) Chairman Nurtai Abykaev said in November that around 300 Kazakh nationals are fighting with IS, of which 150 are women. This figure is apparently based on a video published on the Internet in November 2013, which showed a group of about 150 Kazakh militants who said they had joined IS. The militants said that they had brought their wives and children with them.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk