Kyrgyzstan could be set to designate the Islamic State (IS) group as a terrorist organization, the Interfax news agency in Azerbaijan reported on March 5.
According to Kyrgyzstan's Prosecutor-General's Office, the Osh district prosecutor's office has filed a request with the Osh City Court to rule that a number of organizations, including the IS group, are terrorist groups.
On the list filed with the court are four militant groups fighting in Syria whose ranks include Central Asian militants. They are Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, the ethnic Uzbek groups Katibat Imam al-Bukhari and Jannat Oshiklari, and the IS group.
Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (also referred to as the Imam Bukhori Jamaat) and Jannat Oshiklari both fight alongside Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria's Aleppo Province, although they are independent factions that have not pledged formal allegiance to the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Imam al-Bukhari group pledged allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in November 2014. The group's leader, a shadowy figure known only as Sheikh Salahuddin, is believed to have deep ties with extremist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is reputed to have spent a long time in Afghanistan before coming to fight in Syria. The group claims to have been formed in Syria under the "authorization of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
Jannat Oshiklari, also known as Tawhid wa Jihod, has a large social-media and Internet presence, running a website and accounts on Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, Flickr, and YouTube. The group's propaganda efforts include photographs showing militants training and fighting, as well as photoshopped graphics depicting the group fighting an ideological battle with the United States and Israel.
There is an Uzbek-led faction, Seyfullakh al-Shishani's Jamaat, within Jabhat al-Nusra. That faction, which has pledged allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra, contains mainly Russian-speaking militants and maintains its own structure, although it is officially part of the Nusra group.
Neither Jabhat al-Nusra, Jannat Oshiklari, or the Imam al-Bukhari group are affiliated with the IS group.
Interfax said that a source in the prosecutor's office said that the groups were "involved in the recruitment and transfer of recruits from Kyrgyzstan to the Syria-Iraq region to participate alongside the terrorist organizations in the fighting, so that they can later return home to carry out illegal activities here."
It is not known exactly how many Kyrgyz nationals are fighting in Syria and Iraq. Interfax quoted "information from security authorities" as saying that over 300 individuals from Kyrgyzstan had traveled to Syria to participate in the fighting. Most of the militants were from southern Kyrgyzstan, Interfax said.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk