Kazakhstan’s security services say they have detained members of an extremist organization plotting a series of terror attacks.
The National Security Committee, or KNB in its Russian initials, said in a statement on August 22 that that the four people captured in the Almaty region in a special operation were citizens of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The operation took place on August 18.
The KNB said that they found components of improvised explosive devices and extremist religious material in the places where the group resided.
“The plan of the radicals to mount armed attacks on staff and places of deployment of KNB officers and police and on military bases have been neutralized. Their next stage was to be terrorist attacks on places where the public gather in large groups,” the KNB said.
The statement was typically perfunctory and similar in tone and detail to one in late June, when the KNB said it had intercepted a group in the central Karaganda region that it believed was also planning a series of terrorist strikes. Initial reports spoke of seven suspected plotters being arrested, but that figure was increased to eight in the first half of August.
And that is as much of a public update as has been provided, other than that the group is to be tried on terrorism and a variety of arms-related charges. The line is that in the interests of the investigation, no more details are being released.
This lack of transparency or even the slightest insight into what might be motivating would-be attackers is standard operating procedure for Kazakhstan’s security services.
In mid-August, authorities willfully prolonged the steady background noise of terrorist peril by extending the moderate, or yellow, level of terrorist threat to next January 15.
The yellow level of alertness has been in place since a spate of shootings, which the government attributed to a gang of Islamic radicals, in the western city of Aktobe in early June. Eight people, including three soldiers, were killed in that attacks. Security forces killed 18 attackers and detained another nine suspects.
There are three levels of terrorist alert in Kazakhstan — red for critical, orange for high, and yellow for moderate. While indicating less peril, the yellow level allows for intensified antiterrorist investigative activities, monitoring by the special services of large public gatherings, enhanced inspections of transports and increased street patrols.
Whether or not the carte blanche for increased scrutiny of mass gatherings is in any way related to the string of unprecedented antigovernment protests that occurred earlier this year is matter for conjecture. Be that as it may, the extension of the level yellow alert to January will likely put rest to any ideas critics of the government may have about showing their discontent in public and in large numbers.