Security officials in several Central Asia states are playing up the threat posed by Islamic militants returning to the region from Syria. While authorities warn of potential problems ahead, analysts are struggling to assess the real risk level.
Official expressions of concern have increased since February 14, when Kyrgyz law-enforcement personnel took six suspected militants into custody. Intelligence officials asserted that the suspects had received training in “international terrorist organizations’ camps in Syria,” and had been planning to carry out attacks in Bishkek, the capital, and Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second city. The incident bore similarities to another reported plot that was disrupted last fall. In that instance, two Kyrgyz citizens and one from neighboring Kazakhstan were supposedly prevented from blowing up targets in Bishkek and Osh. The trio was said to have trained for the terror mission in Syria.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.