Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Authorities in some Central Asian nations have taken steps to contain the spread of Islamic terrorism. In southern Kyrgyzstan, a 19-year-old man was detained on suspicion of recruiting fighters for the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq. In Uzbekistan, the Supreme Court convicted a 23-year-old Uzbek for fighting with Jihadis in Syria. In Russia, a Tajik man was sentenced to three years in prison for “terrorist propaganda”.
Sergei Smirnov, the first deputy director of Russia's Federal Security Service, estimates that some 3,000 Central Asians are fighting in Syria and Iraq, 500 from Kyrgyzstan alone. Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika said that citizens of a hundred countries are fighting for the Caliphate.
In the case of Kyrgyzstan, local authorities have been hard pressed to counter the flow of young people trying to reach Syria and Iraq in order to fight with Islamic extremists.
In some cases, recruiters "accompany" young would-be fighters to Turkey, the main point of entry for those who want to join extremist groups, which is what happened with to the young man who was arrested by Kyrgyz authorities.
Recruiters also rely heavily on the Internet to lure young people. This is the case of 20-year-old Shahboz Azimov, a Tajik convicted in Russia for placing materials on the Internet calling on Muslims in Russia to launch jihad in Iraq and Syria.
Azimov is not the first Tajik recruiter in Russia. In recent months, Russian authorities arrested one of his compatriots in Moscow for delivering young people to destination, some of whom did not fully realise the implications of what they were doing.
More broadly, all Central Asian governments are reacting to the threat of Islamic terrorism by banning, for example women from wearing headscarves and men from growing beards long, by preventing people under the age of 35 from making the pilgrimage to Makkah, and by boosting border controls with risk countries like Afghanistan.
Kyrgyz authorities have also decided to subject imams to religious exams to test their real knowledge of sharia. The goal is to prevent "poorly educated" Muslim clerics from spreading radical ideas among young people.