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BISHKEK - Security agencies in Kyrgyzstan have launched large-scale anti-terrorist operations to counter growing extremist activity. Terrorist groups "using Islam as a disguise in their attempts to undermine the state" are more active, State National Security Committee (GKNB) spokesman Rysbek Bykyn said.
"Radical extremist groups have been turning increasingly dangerous - planting mines, setting off bombs, killing people," he said. "Unless (we) resist them fiercely, the situation may get out of control. They aren't simply organised crime groups - they are terrorists with different ideology, such as jihadists, Wahhabists, and Hizb ut-Tahrir or IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) members, to whom religion is only a disguise."
Terrorists might be exploiting the country's temporary difficulties, terrorism analyst Arkady Golovitsyn said.
"Some media and human rights activists say the security agencies are acting too harshly," he said. "But ... Kyrgyzstan is still unsettled after April's and June's disturbances, and terrorists have taken advantage ... to install bases not only in the south, but also near Bishkek and in Chui Oblast."
Kyrgyz conduct consistent anti-terror operations
During the past two months, Kyrgyz special services have carried out anti-terrorist operations on an unprecedented scale, Golovitsyn said.
"We must search for the instigators and act in a proper manner, so that government actions do not disturb the Muslim majority. Islam should not be associated with terrorism," Malikov said."For the first time, those have been consistent operations that have lasted for nearly two months now, involving considerable anti-terrorist forces," he said.
The secret services, law enforcement and security agencies have also been put on high alert, Batyn said.
Elmira Nogoibayeva, head of the PolisAsia political centre, while admitting that radical sentiments are on the rise, voiced some reservations regarding security agency performance.
"Their statements strike me as politicised," she warned. "I wouldn't like to see (the government) convert the issue of security into a search for an enemy to demonise."
Bykyn said the anti-terrorist forces have given this matter due consideration.
"We must act resolutely to fight not Islamists but extremists, who are capable of assuming any guise," Bakyn said."In a strong state, even if terrorist groups exist, they keep a very low profile," he said. "We must act resolutely to fight not Islamists but extremists, who are capable of assuming any guise. We've detained a number of people whom we suspect of belonging to terrorist groups. They are being questioned now, but we must withhold some information to protect the confidentiality of investigations. We already have enough evidence of the criminal nature of those terrorist groups' activities - we have confiscated firearms, explosives, extremist literature, and videos featuring terrorists calling for jihad against the new government."
Major operations are under way in Osh, Dzhalal-Abad and Batken oblasts and in areas along the border with Tajikistan, a Kyrgyz anti-terrorist centre officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
"Most active terrorists are local residents," he said, "but we have evidence they've received support, including financial assistance, from insurgents."
Kyrgyz co-operate with foreign colleagues
"We must act resolutely to fight not Islamists but extremists, who are capable of assuming any guise," Bakyn said.Thus, Kyrgyz secret services have co-operated with foreign colleagues, the anonymous officer said. "We check all suspicious homes and mosques as well as imams, work with informers, and carry out (anti-terrorist) raids," he said.
Extremist groups have also used external assistance, Kadyr Malikov, a researcher of religion, said.
"We must search for the instigators and act in a proper manner, so that government actions do not disturb the Muslim majority. Islam should not be associated with terrorism," Malikov said."Kyrgyzstan is a country where moderate Islam is preached, but autonomous groups whose ideology is rooted in countries stricken by military conflicts - Iraq, Caucasian countries, and so on - have emerged," Malikov said. "Those are artificially created groups linked ... to those who order terrorist acts. We must search for the instigators and act in a proper manner, so that government actions do not disturb the Muslim majority. Islam should not be associated with terrorism."
The security agencies have tried to respect due process, taking strictly legal action against detained suspects and never resorting to torture, Marat Imankulov, GKNB deputy director and head of the anti-terrorist centre, said. Golovitsyn described security agency anti-terrorist actions as fully justified.
"If we start whimpering or shedding tears, no one can guarantee we won't have another Domodedovo here," he said, referring to last month's attack at a Moscow airport. "Everyone understands that would be totally unacceptable. So the security agencies must safeguard national security."