Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have fallen largely silent about the alleged Islamic State cell that they neutralized earlier this month, only for the group itself to purportedly address a video message to the nation.
The nine-minute clip, titled “Address to the people of Kyrgyzstan,” was posted on July 25 and remained online for only a few hours before being taken down, news website Kloop.kg reported.
As Kloop reported, the video consisted of an address to camera by a man speaking in Kyrgyz who appealed to viewers with calls for the Kyrgyz people to “relocate to the lands of Islamic State from infidel nations.” The speech was accompanied by Russian subtitles.
It is specified by the speaker that Kyrgyzstan is one such “infidel nation,” because of the country’s embrace of “man-created laws and rules, “such as democracy.
The video was stamped with the logo of Furat Media, the Russian-language wing of the IS group’s online propaganda operation. Pending further verification by security experts, the authenticity of the video remains in question.
Authorities have for months been warning of a Kyrgyz contingent within the IS group. According to the Interior Ministry’s latest estimates, 422 citizens of Kyrgyzstan, including 55 women, are engaged in combat activities with radical Islamic organizations in Iraq and Syria.
Kloop notes that the footage issued over the weekend was bereft of the scenes of brutality or violence that have increasingly come to typify the IS group’s output.
The video ends with titles carrying the following text: “A few weeks after this particular address, our brother departed for the (Iraqi) city of Beiji, where he took part in fighting against apostates in the Shia militias. During bitter fighting, he was wounded, and we implore Allah to heal him.”
Beiji has indeed in recent weeks been the focus of major military operations as a broad international alliance has teamed up with Iraqi forces in an effort to wrest back control over an important oil refinery there. Notably, the battles have made unlikely allies of the United States and Iran, which has also reportedly dispatched its forces to fight alongside Iraqi Shia militias.
No mention is made in the video of the trumpeted government storming of the would-be IS cell that took place in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on July 16. More questions than answers remain over what happened in Bishkek, so it is uncertain that there are any links to be drawn between the makers of this video and the group raided in Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan’s security services have yet to issue a statement on the video or its contents.
It should be expected, however, that the message will only add fuel to a mounting flow of rhetoric intended to convey the impression a pressing Islamist threat from without and within.
Prime Minister Temir Sariyev on July 24 suggested that people jailed for terrorism and religious extremism should be placed in segregated prisons.
“It is indispensable to create separate prisons for those convicted of religious extremism, because they will start to actively enlist criminal representatives into their ranks,” Sariev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
It was this very mingling of religious extremists and criminality that made for the make-up of the cell intercepted in Bishkek this month, he said. People within that group were known to be hardened gangsters not formerly known for any radical Islamic inclinations.
The theme of suspected recruitment to fighting for the IS group was pursued elsewhere on July 24, as a court in southern Kyrgyzstan began hearings in the trial of Rashot Kamalov, a popular Muslim preacher facing charges of extremism.
Human rights group Kalym Mamy told Interfax that the trial is taking place in strictly controlled conditions and that access to hearings is limited.
The State Committee on National Security has been reluctant to divulge details on the case, but local media cited police in Osh Province, where Kamalov lived and preached, as saying he had encouraged people to go fight in Syria.
But four parishioners who heard the sermon told EurasiaNet.org, in separate interviews, that Kamalov had called IS a terror organization and disputed its claims of forming a caliphate.
This is the highest-profile defendant to date to face charges of enlisting people to fight in Syria, making this a test case.