Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prosecutor-General Andrey Kravchenko has said that the country’s intelligence and law-enforcement services have identified the Kazakh children shown in a recent Islamic State group video, RFE/RL’s Kazakh service reports.
The video, which Islamic State released in November, shows a group of Kazakh nationals, including children, undergoing military and ideological training. Ttled “Race Toward Good,” the video caused an outcry in Kazakhstan. The Prosecutor-General’s Office said it was taking legal steps to prohibit its distribution and deem it illegal.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Astana on combating religious extremism and terrorism on December 19, Kravchenko said that the Kazakh authorities were “well aware who these children are” and that Astana would “continue our work so that these children are not implicated in any criminal activities.”
Kravchenko said that while he was not able to disclose names, the children “reached [Syria] in various ways and in the main these are children who went their with their families.”
“As for this video, we are well-informed about who is filmed in this video. The intelligence services and law-enforcement agencies are working very seriously, carefully, and in detail on all materials of this kind,” Kravchenko said.
Despite the claim that the Kazakh authorities are aware of the identity of the children in the video, Kravchenko did not offer any new information about Kazakh militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Kravchenko said that there are around 300 Kazakhs fighting in what he dubbed “hot spots,” though he did not specify where. This figure is the same as that quoted by the chairman of the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB), Nurtai Abykaev, who said recently that there are about 300 Kazakhs fighting with Islamic State, of which around 150 are women.
The information about the number of militants in Syria and the fact that they are there with their families, however, appears to be based on a video published in November 2013, which showed a group of about 150 Kazakh militants who said they had joined Islamic State and had brought their wives and children with them.
The deputy prosecutor-general also emphasized the ban on the distribution of the video and similar material.
“Naturally we will be taking measures so that similar material is barred from the network. So that they do not spread everywhere. This is very important for us,” Kravchenko was quoted as saying by the Novosti Kazakhstan website.
Kravchenko said that Kazakhstan is interacting with Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to prevent the spread of such video clips via the Internet.
“We find that the staff of these services have an understanding of our work and they are coming to us for a meeting,” Kravchenko said, adding that Kazakhstan has now blocked around 500 websites.
The ban by Kazakhstan of the “Race Toward Good” video appears to have also affected news outlets in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
In November, a Kyrgyz news portal, Kloop.kg, said that the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry had asked the site to remove a report it posted about the video. The site’s editor, Bektur Iskender, said that Bishkek was punishing Kyrgyz citizens in order to appease Kazakhstan.
On December 16, Kloop.kg’s owners reported that their site had been blocked in Kyrgyzstan after they refused to take down the report on the Islamic State video.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk