Overview: In 2015, the Kyrgyz Republic's counterterrorism efforts focused on countering violent extremism (CVE), rooting out extremists, monitoring the flow of Kyrgyz national foreign terrorist fighters, and preventing those returning from conflicts abroad from engaging in terrorist activities. The State Committee for National Security (GKNB) and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) conducted several operations targeting individuals suspected of affiliation with banned religious groups or extremist recruitment activities. GKNB and MVD officials conducted two counterterrorism operations that resulted in the deaths of several suspected terrorists. In 2015, the MVD estimated that 400 Kyrgyz citizen fighters were in Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq, though the number could be higher. The government estimated that 70 percent of Kyrgyz citizens fighting in Iraq and Syria were ethnic Uzbeks. Kyrgyzstan restricts public information on national security issues, making it difficult to assess the efficacy of its counterterrorism operations and the wider extent of the threat.
The Kyrgyz Republic remained vulnerable to transnational threats, especially in southern areas. People and illicit goods continued to move relatively freely into and out of the country. The recession in Russia increased unemployment among Kyrgyz migrant laborers and had significant ripple effects on the Kyrgyz economy, potentially leaving the population more vulnerable to terrorist recruitment. The lack of opportunities for Kyrgyz youth also increased the vulnerability of young people. The MVD's Tenth Directorate, which is responsible for counterterrorism operations, reported that in 2015, ISIL recruiters expanded their search for recruits to include more women and children, individuals with higher education and with professional skills such as doctors and computer technicians, which remain in short supply in ISIL-controlled territory. The government is concerned about the potential for an influx of terrorist elements from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and for instability to spread into Central Asia.
In 2015, the United States continued its programming to train customs and border security agencies to help detect and deter terrorist threats and combat corruption within various police organizations. The Kyrgyz State Border Guards and Customs Service cooperated closely with the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program. In 2015, EXBS funded a portion of the construction of two Border Service Horse Stables for improved interdiction along the border and additional interdiction and commodity identification training for Border and Customs Service officers.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Kyrgyz Republic has two primary laws that govern counterterrorism operations. The first law, the "Law on Countering Terroristic Acts" (last revised in 2005), defines terrorism and provides the MVD and GKNB the authority to identify terrorist threats and prevent attacks. The second law, the "Law on Countering Money Laundering," which was revised in 2006, addresses terrorism financing. Kyrgyz law criminalizes all activities in support of terrorism, extremism, and radicalization if the activities instigate a public security threat, recruit individuals, or include children. The GKNB leads the country's Counterterrorism Center, which is comprised of representatives at the deputy minister level of relevant government ministries.
In July, the Kyrgyz parliament introduced and approved amendments to its counterterrorism legislation that increased the penalty for convictions for recruitment, training, and participating in military operations abroad to up to 15 years with confiscation of property. According to the office of the Prosecutor General, these stricter penalties will help law enforcement by deterring both prospective terrorists and those who wish to return to Kyrgyzstan. The government delivered statements indicating the need to reform the judiciary and strengthen rule of law, but made no concrete progress in 2015 as the judicial system remained vulnerable to corruption and political bias.
At the request of law enforcement agencies, the Kyrgyz parliament passed legislation increasing the legal penalties for returning fighters from Syria and Iraq, in an effort to dissuade them from returning to the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the MVD, it arrested all of the 20 to 30 foreign terrorist fighters known to have returned to the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2015, Kyrgyz President Atambaev expressed support for proposed new legislation that would strip Kyrgyz foreign terrorist fighters of their citizenship.
Although the GKNB's Counterterrorism Center has demonstrated the ability to quickly react to bomb scares or other potential terrorist threats, it lacks specialized training and equipment. Interagency cooperation, coordination, and information sharing is sporadic. For example, the Prosecutor General's office receives the results of GKNB and MVD investigations, including information to use in its prosecutions, but it has no mechanism to seek additional information after the investigation is complete. Kyrgyz security services face capacity issues, are overly bureaucratic, and struggle with corruption. Law enforcement agencies continued to lack equipment, manpower, and funding to effectively detect and deter criminal and potential terrorist operations in remote and mountainous areas of the south.
The Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program continued to offer assistance to Kyrgyz security forces during much of 2015, including training focused on border control.
The government does not maintain a terrorist screening watchlist. It also does not have biographic or biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry. Information sharing with other countries occurs rarely and usually only by request in the context of corruption or organized crime investigations. Information sharing and cooperation with counterterrorism officials in Turkey continued to increase in 2015, including information on the travel of Kyrgyz citizens to Turkey. The government does not collect advance passenger records on commercial flights.
According to open source reporting, in 2015 there were numerous counterterrorism operations in the Kyrgyz Republic. Most were small operations that resulted in the arrests of suspected extremists due to their possession of extremist materials.
There were two major law enforcement operations targeting suspected terrorists in Bishkek. On July 16, a counterterrorism operation closed down streets in central Bishkek for more than five hours. By the end of the operation, GKNB reported that it had "liquidated" four suspects – Kazakh nationals – who had been radicalized in prison, become members of ISIL, and planned a terrorist attack on the main square in Bishkek during the mass prayer event marking the end of Ramadan. GKNB also reported that these suspects planned to attack the Russian military base in Kant. On December 10, the GKNB killed two suspected terrorists in an effort to arrest them. The two suspects reportedly had ties to a terrorist cell led by a violent extremist that died in the July 16 operation.
In November, two men attacked Kadyr Malikov, Director of the Religion, Law, and Politics Analytical Center. According to the GKNB, the suspects were supporters of ISIL and fled to Turkey after the attack. Both suspects were detained in Turkey pending extradition to the Kyrgyz Republic to face charges in connection with the attack.
Law enforcement claimed to have found extremist materials in the homes of all of the suspects. At year's end, the Kyrgyz government had released few additional details on the operations.
Impediments to more effective counterterrorism law enforcement activity included interagency rivalries, a lack of coordination between the GKNB and MVD, and budgetary constraints. Inefficient Soviet-era bureaucratic structures, corruption, low salaries, and frequent personnel turnover also hampered law enforcement efforts. Counterterrorism police units were still largely untested in real-life situations.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kyrgyzstan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Service of the Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2012, the government established a Commission on Combating the Financing of Terrorism; the Commission was largely inactive in 2015. The Kyrgyz Republic did not pursue any terrorism finance cases and did not identify or freeze any terrorist assets.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Kyrgyz Republic showed political support for CVE programs, but did not adopt any new strategies, policies, or initiatives in 2015. The government sent high-level representatives to the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the regional CVE conference in Kazakhstan in June, and the Leader's Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly in September, but did not implement new initiatives from the resulting action agendas in 2015.
The Ministry of Education took steps to develop a new curriculum for high school-aged students on moderate Islam and identifying terrorist recruitment tactics. The government also worked with the State Committee on Religious Affairs and Muslim leaders to develop a new national religious strategy to include counter-extremism measures. In 2015, the government cooperated with the OSCE and other international organizations and foreign governments to facilitate counter-extremism assistance programs. The government typically does not discourage or interfere with non-governmental programs that work with religious communities vulnerable to radicalization.
The GKNB continued its public awareness campaign in the Kyrgyz language press to discredit the efforts of ISIL recruiters. The Tenth Department of the MVD, together with local religious leaders in the southern provinces of Batken, Jalalabad, and Osh, conducted meetings with schoolchildren and their parents to explain the recruitment tactics of violent extremists and the legal consequences for foreign terrorist fighters from the Kyrgyz Republic if they choose to return.
International and Regional Cooperation: In 2015, the Kyrgyz government continued to seek training and technical assistance from international organizations and foreign governments to bolster its capacity to prevent terrorist attacks. During the reporting period, the Kyrgyz Republic participated in counterterrorism activities and studies organized by the OSCE, CIS Antiterrorism Center, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Antiterrorism Center, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). In 2015, the Kyrgyz Republic participated in three CSTO military exercises, which took place in Russia, Armenia, and on the Tajik border with Afghanistan. The exercises were aimed at strengthening the capacity of CSTO members to quickly deploy counterterrorism operations. The Kyrgyz Republic Special Forces are actively involved with the SCO's Regional Antiterrorism Center and, in 2015, participated in a joint two-day counterterrorism training operation. Terrorist threats were also a matter of frequent discussion in meetings of the CIS.
Beginning in 2010, the OSCE, through its Community Security Initiative (CSI), embedded an international police advisor with law enforcement agencies in each region of the Kyrgyz Republic. Along with community policing, the advisor trained local law enforcement officials on how to counter violent extremism and identify terrorist threats. The program concluded in December 2015. In November, the Counterterrorism Center agreed to a 2015 training plan developed through funding by the OSCE to increase its capacity to share information on terrorist threats between law enforcement agencies at all levels of government.
The OSCE facilitated cooperation between the GKNB and the National Police of Turkey, based on an agreement of cooperation signed in 2014, to provide training and study tours for special staff of the GKNB, MVD, and Kyrgyz Border Service on countering terrorism and extremism. Also, with the support of the OSCE and the National Police of Turkey, the GKNB held public hearings on counterterrorism and trained law enforcement in the provinces outside of Bishkek.
Throughout 2015, the Counterterrorism Center partnered with the UK-funded NGO Search for Common Ground to create community leadership groups in each region of the Kyrgyz Republic to deter potential fighters from traveling to Syria. The groups were led by local religious leaders who are trained in methods to prevent violent extremism. Parliament worked with the OSCE to host public hearings in the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad (from where many fighters originated) to increase local awareness of ISIL recruitment methods.