Kazakhstani Planes & Somalian Arms

by Nathan Hamm on 8/1/2006 · 6 comments

RFE/RL reports that Kazakhstan is investigating claims that planes bearing Kazakhstani identifying marks delivered arms to Somali Islamists.

Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee says it is investigating reports that Russian-made planes bearing Kazakh identification marks recently delivered weapons for Islamic militants in Somalia.

Government officials in Somalia in late July claimed that two Ilyushin-76 cargo planes bearing the emblem of Kazakhstan landed in Mogadishu from Eritrea with loads of weapons of unknown origin.

The Somali Prime Minister accuses Libya, Iran, and Egypt of supplying arms to Somali Islamists through Eritrea. Both Eritrea and Somali Islamists deny the charges.

An AP reporter witnessed the arrival of the Ilyushin-76 in Mogadishu last week.

Wednesday, an AP reporter watched the Ilyushin-76 land, but was quickly ordered to leave by Islamic militiamen. The plane’s tail carried a flag from Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic that often makes its planes available for charter.

It will be quite interesting to see who chartered the plane. Iranian involvement does not seem too far-fetched, and if that does in fact turn out to be the case, it may cause friction in IranianKazakh relations and Iranian efforts to extend its influence elsewhere in Central Asia.

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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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Laurence August 2, 2006 at 6:25 am

Don’t I seem to remember Vice President Cheney praising Kazakhstan, in contrast to Russia, in his Vilnius speech? No Kazakh airliner flies without Nazarbayev’s permission, I would think. So, what does Dick Cheney say about this report? Last time I checked, there weren’t any Aeroflot cargo planes reported helping Islamist militias…

Nick August 2, 2006 at 6:41 am

According to the Independent (South Africa) Kazakhstan has been involved in gun-running to unstable African countries before:

“Officials in Kazakhstan, a vast, oil-rich Central Asian nation, had been involved in a string of illegal arms dealing scandals after the 1991 Soviet collapse that included sales of military equipment to countries including Ethiopia and Congo. Kazakh air operators also often make their planes available for charter.”

Nathan August 2, 2006 at 6:50 am

Laurence, one would think that when Russians run arms to militants, they have the foresight to not do so in planes bearing Russian markings. And it’s not as if Russia takes a principled stand against Islamist militias. Didn’t Putin just make clear that his position on Hamas and Hezbollah is that since they don’t threaten Russian interests, Russia does not see any reason to view them as terrorist groups.

No Kazakh airliner flies without Nazarbayev’s permission, I would think.

I think you might be mistaken about this and the extent to which Nazarbaev controls every last detail of business and government in Kazakhstan. I think it’s much more likely that this is an example of someone with resources making a buck than it is proof that it is Kazakh policy to arm Islamist militants.

Laurence August 2, 2006 at 11:38 am

Nathan, I believe Russia’s policy vis-a-vis Hezbollah and Hamas may be tit-for-tat in exchange for Western support of Chechen Islamists and Hizb-ut-Tahrir (not labelled terrorist by the US State Department although banned in Russia). BTW, I believe France also declines to label Hezbollah as terrorist, for reasons of state related to its own historic involvement in Lebanon. IMHO the world would be better off if the US and Russia and France (and China, for that matter, which faces US-supported Uighur terrorists) came up with one list of outlawed Islamist groups, realizing that it is a single struggle against extremism. Interestingly, Tony Blair mentioned Chechnya for the first time I can remember in this context, at his recent White House press conference, so steps may be underway along these lines after the G8 summit. It’s only kremlinology, there is no objective evidence, but I certainly hope so…

chirol August 3, 2006 at 2:02 am

Reminds me of all the Russian and Ukranian planes smuggling weapons into Tanzania while taking illegal fish out.

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