Accessibility links

Breaking News

Tracking Islamic State

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.

Wilayat Sinai claims that it shot down this Airbus A-321, with registration number EI-ETJ. The plane crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. This picture was taken in Antalya, Turkey, on September 17.

An Islamic State (IS) affiliate in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has claimed that it downed a Russian charter plane that crashed in a mountainous area of the Sinai Peninsula on October 31.

Russia's transport minister has denied the claims.

The Airbus A321 -- carrying 214 Russian and three Ukrainian passengers, and seven crew -- lost contact with air-traffic control 23 minutes after it took off from the Sharm al-Sheikh resort in the Red Sea.

The Russian Embassy in Egypt said in a Facebook post that all the passengers and crew on board the flight had died.

The IS affiliate, Wilayat Sinai, made its claim of responsibility for the crash via social media, including Twitter and Telegram.

"The fighters of the Islamic State were able to down a Russian plane over Sinai province that was carrying over 220 Russian crusaders. They were all killed, thanks be to God," its statement read.

IS supporters on Twitter quickly began spreading the claim under two Arabic hashtags: "Russian plane" and "Islamic State has downed a Russian plane."

The statement did not indicate how the militants allegedly downed the plane, although some IS supporters on Twitter claimed that IS's Sinai affiliate possessed Igla surface-to-air missiles. Israeli officials have also claimed that Wilayat Sinai has released footage showing its militants apparently firing an Igla (SA-18) weapon.

'False' Claims

Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said the claim that IS was involved in the crash of the Airbus A321 was "not credible."

"Various media outlets have put out mixed information saying that the Russian passenger liner flying from Sharm El-Sheikh to St. Petersburg was reportedly shot down by antiaircraft missiles fired by terrorists," Sokolov said. "This information cannot be considered credible."

Sokolov added that Egyptian experts working at the crash site had not uncovered information "that would confirm these allegations."

IS In Sinai

IS's Sinai affiliate, Wilayat Sinai, was created in November 2014, when Ansar Bayit al-Maqdis, Egypt's most active militant group, announced it had pledged bay'ah, or allegiance, to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Since then, the group has carried out a number of attacks against security forces in the Sinai, including a large-scale and complex ground assault against as many as 21 Egyptian military and police positions near the town of Sheikh Zuweid on July 1.

The group claimed it used a variety of heavy and light weapons, including guided missiles and air defense weapons.

Israel intelligence estimates that Wilayat Sinai has between 500 and 1,000 members. The group has released videos showing its militants firing man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).

Load more

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.


Latest Posts