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Notorious Kyrgyz Crime Boss Detained In Bishkek

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Kamchy Kolbaev in a court in Bishkek in 2013

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz organized-crime figure Kamchy Kolbaev, who was added by Washington to a list of major global drug-trafficking suspects in 2011, has been detained in Bishkek.

The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said on October 22 that the 46-year-old Kolbaev, known as a "thief in law" -- a title traditionally given to kingpins among criminal groups in former Soviet republics -- was detained on suspicion of organizing a criminal group and participating in the activities of an organized criminal group.

The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek said it welcomed Kolbaev's detention and added that it hoped the Kyrgyz authorities would "prosecute and continue to detain this dangerous criminal leader in the interest of public safety."

In late 2012, Kolbaev was extradited to Kyrgyzstan from the United Arab Emirates at Bishkek's request and was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison on extortion charges, but his prison term was later shortened to three years without any explanation.

In June 2014, Kolbaev was granted an early release, which Kyrgyz officials explained by saying that each day spent by an inmate in a detention center is equal to two days in a penal colony.

Weeks before his early release, the U.S. State Department offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of Kolbaev's criminal network, which it described as being "part of the broader Brothers' Circle transnational criminal organization composed of leaders and members of several Eurasian criminal groups."

UKMK chief Kamchybek Tashiev, in his first statement after taking over the committee, said Kolbaev will be held responsible if it turns out that he committed a crime.

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