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Islamist Group Threatens Kazakhstan Over Religion Law

A previously unknown Islamist group has threatened Kazakhstan with violence unless it abolishes a new law that bans prayer rooms in state buildings in the mainly Muslim Central Asian nation.

U.S.-based intelligence monitoring group SITE said a group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) has issued an Arabic-subtitled video, dated October 21.

There has been no independent confirmation of the authenticity of the video.

In the video, four masked fighters with submachine guns and a grenade launcher are seen standing behind a fighter reading a speech in which he calls on the Kazakh government to abolish the law.

President Nursultan Nazarbaev who signed the law this month claims the new legislation will strengthen religious tolerance.

But the law has been criticized by Kazakhstan's Supreme Mufti, Absattar Derbisali, who said it could anger pious Muslims and spur extremism.

Rights groups in the West and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have voiced concerns that it could restrict religious freedom.