Kazakhstan’s security forces target banned Islamic group

ASTANA (TCA) — Authorities in Kazakhstan say they have detained 16 suspected members of a banned Islamic group during a major security operation in three regions of the country, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

The National Security Committee (KNB) said on December 21 that it had launched a counterterrorism operation targeting suspected cells of Takfir wal-Hijra, which is on lists of terrorist organizations in Russia, the United States, and several other countries.

The KNB released few details about the operation, which it said was being conducted in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, as well as in the Almaty, Aktobe, and Atyrau regions.

Takfir wal-Hijra (Excommunication and Exodus) emerged in Egypt in the 1960s and is believed to have links with Al-Qaeda.

The group was banned in Kazakhstan in 2014.

Early in December, the National Security Committee detained several people suspected of illegal oil sales during a large-scale security operation in the northwestern city of Aktobe, saying that some of those detained were followers of the Salafi branch of Islam, which is officially banned in Kazakhstan as extremist.

The announcement came days after a court in Aktobe sentenced 29 men charged in connection with shooting attacks in the city in June that the government blamed on alleged Islamic militants.

In June, a group of 25 alleged Islamic militants carried out attacks that killed five civilians and three members of Kazakhstan’s security forces in Aktobe.

Security forces killed 18 gunmen and arrested several others.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev then said the attacks were carried out by followers of Salafi Islam.

On November 28, seven of the 29 defendants were sentenced to life in prison, while the other 22 received prison terms ranging from two to 25 years. Investigators described all the defendants as Salafists or their supporters.

Critics of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s government say the authorities sometimes use allegations of extremism as a pretext to suppress dissent.

Sergey Kwan


Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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