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Militant Who Threatened Russia In IS Video May Be Kyrgyz Madrasah Student

A grab from the video widely shared on social media. The man thought to be from Kyrgyzstan is squatting in the photo.
A grab from the video widely shared on social media. The man thought to be from Kyrgyzstan is squatting in the photo.

A Kyrgyz-speaking militant who appears in a recent Islamic State video threatening Russia is thought to be a 23-year-old former madrasah student from Bishkek, although the Kyrgyz authorities have not verified that information, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

The Kyrgyz-speaking militant "starred" alongside a group of IS militants in a video shared on social media on October 14. The video begins with an announcement by one militant in Arabic, following which the other militants each threaten Russia in their own language. Each of the militants stated which country he had come from, including Egypt, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz militant reportedly said that he was calling for jihad in Russia in response to the Russian air strikes in Syria.

In an October 28 press conference, Rakhat Sulaymanov, the press secretary of Kyrgyzstan's General Committee for National Security (GNKB), said that the intelligence services were examining the video and were working on identifying the Kyrgyz-speaking militant.

Madrasah Student?

Some who saw the video say they recognized the Kyrgyz militant as 23-year-old Askarbek Andabaev, a Bishkek resident whose relatives say went to Syria some months ago.

One of Andarbaev's relatives, who gave his name as Sultan, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that the young man had studied at a madrasah in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

"Recently, I heard that he had gone [to Syria]," Sultan said.

Andarbaev grew up in the Leilek district in the Batken region of southwestern Kyrgyzstan. His mother moved there when Andarbaev was a child, after the death of his father. Three or four years ago, the family moved back to Bishkek, where Andarbaev enrolled in a madrasah.

"He went to study in a madrasah, and they weren't allowed to use telephones there. When he studied, he didn't talk to anyone on the phone," Sultan told RFE/RL.

Andarbaev's family last saw him a year ago, when he came home for a vacation, according to Sultan. No one has heard from him since.

The deputy chairman of the State Committee for Religious Affairs, Zakir Chotaev, told RFE/RL that according to official data there are 400 Kyrgyz nationals in Syria.

"Most of the citizens who go are those who don't know anything about religion," Chotaev said.

"Some go to Syria because of family problems, divorce, after losing a parent, or unemployment. But the main reason is religious illiteracy."

But as RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service noted, if the GKNB do confirm that the Kyrgyz militant in the video is Andarbaev, it will raise questions about whether the young man was recruited in Bishkek, perhaps in the madrasah where he was a student.

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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