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Shanghai Cooperation Organization Holds Military Drills In Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK -- Special forces from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states are holding joint military maneuvers in Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz Defense Ministry said on April 22 that military units from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan have started the four-day exercises in the Shamsi Gorge, near the northern city of Tokmok, on April 21.

The other SCO member, Uzbekistan, was not taking part.

The ministry said the drills are aimed to practice fighting illegal armed groups and terrorists in open spaces and inside buildings, and securing the release of hostages.

Russia and the mostly Muslim former Soviet republics in Central Asia have expressed concerns about a possible spread of Islamic extremism following the withdrawal of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan last year.

Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan have observer status in the SCO.