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Kazakh President Calls For Tighter Control Of Religious Groups

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev
ASTANA -- Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev has called for tighter control over religious groups, saying it was necessary to protect the state from extremism.

Nazarbaev's comments to parliament on September 1 came after security forces in western Kazakhstan this week killed one suspected extremist who authorities said was planning acts of terrorism and captured 18 others.

Nazarbaev claimed the new legislation would not infringe upon people's right to practice their religious beliefs.

"We are not talking about restricting freedom of belief for anyone," he said. "No, we are talking about protecting the state from religious extremism, as all states do, moreover as those states that accept Islam as the state religion [do]."

Nazarbaev also said, "Whoever wants to, comes here, opens a mosque and what they're doing in these mosques no one knows, no one checks, no one registers them."

The chief Islamic cleric in Kazakhstan, Kairat Lama Sharif, said on September 1 that all religious organizations in Kazakhstan will be required to re-register with authorities.

Security forces in western Kazakhstan have been searching for Islamic militants since May when a suicide bomber, the first ever in Kazakhstan, blew himself up in an administrative building in Aktobe.

compiled from agency reports