Disturbing News from Kyrgyzstan

by Nathan Hamm on 7/9/2004 · 4 comments

I’ve heard the Kyrgyz government make the following claim before.

The Kyrgyz National Security Service believes that militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan might have been involved in attempted terrorist attacks on the anti- terrorist coalition base in the Bishkek airport, Service Chairman Kalyk Imankulov said on Thursday.

“The National Security Service believes that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan might have been involved in attempts to commit terrorist attacks at the Gansi airbase at Manas International Airport near Bishkek,” he said.

Former airbase commander Steven Kelly said recently that Kyrgyzstan and the airbase security service had prevented no less than three terrorist attacks. Imankulov said there were extremist groups in Kyrgyzstan and one of them tried to carry out an act of terror at the airbase. He said that the attackers were arrested and that there is indirect evidence that they were linked to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Ganci is where US planes in Kyrgyzstan are based. This appears to be new attacks.

The determination to strike the airbase is troublesome enough. But, the arrest of Islamist spies is a very bad development for Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan’s security services identified six people on Thursday who were arrested this month on suspicion of spying for Islamic extremists abroad and said more detentions might follow.

They were the first group arrests on spying charges in the impoverished ex-Soviet republic for half a century, but opposition groups accused the authorities of using the threat of Islamic extremism to clamp down on dissent ahead of elections. “I can’t rule out further arrests,” National Security Service (NSS) chief Kalyk Imankulov told a news conference. He denied any political motivation behind the arrests. The NSS, a successor to the Soviet KGB, had originally said it arrested “around 10” people who were a cell of government officials linked to Islamic extremists.

The six identified on Thursday included an alleged cell of one male and one female police officer, a college lecturer, a businessman and an employee of the government’s courier service.

A colonel from the Border Guards was also named, although he was not accused of acting in concert with the other five.

Imankulov said the detainees had sold top-secret Kyrgyz documents to foreigners for two years, earning around $60,000 — a sizeable sum in a country where average wages are $50 a month.

Could be trumped up charges, but I’m inclined to believe this case is the real deal.

I don’t know if the airbase and espionage arrests are at all connected but these two stories worry me a great deal.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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praktike July 9, 2004 at 2:30 pm

Hmmm. I thought the IMU was pretty much destroyed.

Harmonie July 9, 2004 at 2:36 pm

A tour guide! That sounds fun and I’d love to meet you! These PCV/RPCV blogs have been a great source of information and humor for me…I don’t think I knew you lived in Philadelphia. We will be there the 6th and 7th, so let me know if you are interested in meeting up–I’m sure after the nice long orientation we will need a drink! Harmonie

Nathan July 9, 2004 at 4:46 pm


That’s what drives me nuts about this news, it’s hard to know what’s going on because all the governments keep things so tightly under wraps.

Every once in a while, I hear that the Pakistanis are still fighting them near Wana.

Alisher July 19, 2004 at 10:07 am

This kind of espionage trials and foreign conspiracy claims were the classical methods of the work of former KGB, or NKVD during the Stalin times. I guess any totalitarian regime needs to create enemies to legitimize its existance.

Information has always been a means of control and manipulation for all totalitarian regimes. This kind of regimes exist as long as they are capable to control the information. They loose their power as soon as they loose control of information. It is much easier to control the ignorant people than the educated.

I guess the main problem here is not the IMU, but radicalisation of Islam. IMU is only the result of this radicalisation. I am sure that even when the IMU will be totally destroyed, there will emerge other groups with more or less similar ideology unless no action is taken to destroy the reasons which generate radical Islam.

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