Accessibility links

Breaking News

Tracking Islamic State

Kazakhstan (Finally) Designates IS As Terror Group

An Islamic State video titled Race Toward Good showed Kazakh nationals, including children, in training in Syria.

Kazakhstan has formally designated the Islamic State (IS) group as a terrorist organization, according to reports in local news media on November 2.

An announcement of the ruling by an Astana court was posted on the website of the committee on legal statistics and special accounting of the Prosecutor-General of Kazakhstan.

Although the announcement states that the court decision was made on October 15, it appears not to have been published until November 2.

In designating IS as a terrorist organization, Kazakhstan has lagged behind other Central Asian states and Russia.

As the news website noted, "Until now, IS has not appeared in the list of banned extremist and terrorist groups in the Republic of Kazakhstan."

Russia's Supreme Court issued a ruling in December 2014 that recognized IS's activity as terrorist and banning it throughout Russia.

A court in Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, followed suit in March, ruling that IS was a terrorist and extremist group.

Tajikistan's Supreme Court designated IS as a terror group in May, after a scandal in which Gulmurod Khalimov, а U.S.-trained commander of Tajikistan's elite police force, defected to IS.

And news reports have said that IS is banned in Uzbekistan, though the group has not been formally designated a terrorist organization.

Why The Delay?

Kazakhstan's delay in formally designating IS as a terror group is somewhat surprising given the Central Asian state's concerns about IS recruitment and radicalization, and Astana's extreme sensitivity to reports of Kazakh nationals fighting alongside IS.

These concerns have led Kazakhstan to issue widespread bans on Internet resources that it deems show IS propaganda.

In November 2014, Kazakhstan banned an "illegal" video showing ethnic Kazakh children appearing to undergo IS training.

Kazakhstan has also blocked websites, including foreign news sites, that it says are showing IS material. Last month, a court in Astana ruled to block access to the video-sharing site Vimeo on the grounds that it is promoting IS propaganda.

So why has Kazakhstan only now officially designated IS as a terror group?

"I'm surprised Kazakhstan hadn't already done this. Entire families have left Kazakhstan for Syria and Iraq," says Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL's Qishloq Ovozi blogger on Central Asia. "I'd like to think IS just slipped through the cracks of Kazakhstan's terror group list, but I doubt it."

Kazakhs In IS

One reason for Kazakhstan's move to formally designate IS could be part of an attempt to crack down even harder on IS recruitment and radicalization.

Over the past months, Kazakh nationals fighting alongside IS have become more visible, including on social media.

It is increasingly hard for Kazakhstan to block access to IS-related materials showing or in some cases produced by Kazakh nationals.

Last month, a Kazakh IS militant who calls himself Abu Aisha Kazakhi shared a video showing a small child undergoing military training in IS-controlled territory.

Abu Aisha, who lives in Mosul. has also published photographs of his son and other Kazakh children in IS-controlled Iraq.

Coinciding With Kerry?

Could Kazakhstan's decision to publish its announcement that IS has been formally designated a terror group have been timed to coincide with the November 2 visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry?

Kerry had already visited Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and was set to also visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. His tour of Central Asia is intended not only to boost commercial links between Central Asian states but also security cooperation in the face of the IS threat.

Kerry's tour comes as Moscow is using the "IS threat" to boost its own influence in the region.

Days before Kerry's Central Asian tour, Russia issued another dire warning about the threat posed by IS militants seeking to infiltrate the region from Afghanistan.

The head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, said that IS poses an increased threat to Central Asia and warned militants were creating cells in order to carry out "terrorist and diversionary attacks" in CIS countries.

During his own visit to Kazakhstan earlier this month, Putin -- who has been using the IS threat to push for increased military cooperation with Central Asia since December -- said that Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries could create a joint task force to protect the grouping's external borders against the threat of terrorist infiltration from Afghanistan.

Varvara Karaulova attends a court hearing in Moscow on October 28.

The mother of a Russian student suddenly arrested last week after initially escaping prosecution for alleged efforts to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group says her daughter is "psychologically dependent" on the man who tried to recruit her.

In a dramatic development, authorities remanded 19-year-old Varvara Karaulova in custody on suspicion of attempting to recruit people to join the brutal Islamist group, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq under its control.

According to the Russian media, Karaulova resumed contact with her own recruiter sometime after she returned to Russia from Turkey in June.

Karaulova has been remanded until December 23 in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, which is used in cases under the special control of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Karaulova's arrest on October 28 came as something of a shock to the Russian public. While the Muslim convert's alleged attempt to join IS dominated Russian headlines over the summer, in July an official from the Russian government's official National Investigative Committee (NIC) said no charges were to be brought against her.

"An examination of the possible involvement of Varvara Karaulova in the activities of an extremist group and her recruitment has been completed, and the decision was taken not to institute criminal proceedings," NIC spokesman Vladimir Markin said on July 23.

'In Love'

The exact details of the suspicions against Karaulova remain murky.

But some information began to emerge on October 30.

Karaulova in an undated file photo
Karaulova in an undated file photo

Interfax quoted Karaulova's mother, Kira Karaulova, as saying, "Her whole trouble is that she became dependent on her virtual lover (the recruiter), and she is unable to get rid of [her dependency] herself."

She added, "In my opinion, she is not quite conscious of her actions right now."

Russia's TASS news agency quoted a source "close to the investigation" as saying that Karaulova had remained in contact with her recruiter, and even said she was in love with him.

"I couldn't help myself and started to correspond with him," the source quoted the younger Karaulova as saying.

She reportedly told investigators that it was love, rather than political or religious views, that led her to resume contact with her recruiter.

The young woman is "cooperating with the investigation and giving detailed evidence," the source added.


Initial reports on October 27, a day before Karaulova was remanded in custody, said that her recruiters had also been arrested. But details of the arrests and the identities of those involved are even murkier than the exact suspicions around Karaulova.

Karaulova's lawyer, Aleksandr Karabanov, reportedly told journalists on October 27 that he had heard that three recruiters had been detained and arrested in Chechnya, a story that was widely reported and speculated upon in the Russian media.

But the Chechen officials denied that anyone involved in the Karaulova case had been arrested in Chechnya.

Chechen Interior Minister Apti Alaudinov told Interfax that neither his ministry nor the local FSB had any knowledge of related arrests in the republic.

"The question arises, what [source] was advocate Karabanov using when he announced the arrest of Karaulova's recruiters in Chechnya?" asked Alaudinov.

The speculation about the arrests of Karaulova's recruiters comes amid reports of a police search for a 33-year-old man from the Tatar village of Srednyaya Elyuzan in Penza Oblast.

Ilyas Bikmaev is suspected of recruiting Russians to join IS, possibly also Karaulova, a law-enforcement source told TASS on October 28.

Bikmaev is thought to have gone to Turkey in March but may now be in Russia, reports said.

Karaulova left home on May 27 and was arrested alongside 12 other Russians in Turkey, allegedly while attempting to cross into Syria.

Russian media said the former Moscow State University student has changed her name to Aleksandra Ivanova to avoid public attention.

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