SCO Investigating "Russian Traces" in Bishkek Chinese Embassy Attack
Investigators from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are working on the case of the Chinese embassy bombing in Bishkek, which includes "Russian traces," a senior Russian security official said.
"Work on identifying the individuals who took part in the terror act in Bishkek continues with the coordination of SCO special services," said Sergey Smirnov, deputy director of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), at an SCO meeting in Almaty on Tuesday. "In this work, Tajik, Chinese, and Russian traces are being pursued."
A suicide bomber, whom Kyrgyzstan authorities described as a Uighur holding a Tajikistan passport, attacked the Chinese embassy in Bishkek in late August, killing himself and wounding three embassy employees. If the Uighur connection is confirmed, it would signify that the insurgency that the Uighurs -- a Turkic, Muslim people centered in China's northwest -- have been carrying out in China has expanded into Central Asia.
Smirnov's reference to "SCO special services" is unclear; he could be referring to special services of SCO member countries (which include China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) or organs of the SCO itself, like the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure. The former is not newsworthy but the latter would be, suggesting a deepening role of the SCO in regional security. But for now it seems more likely that Smirnov was referring to SCO member states, and phrased it that way because he was at an SCO meeting.
The less ambiguously newsworthy thing is the Russian trace. When the Kyrgyzstan authorities first released information about the plot last week, they described an international effort that involved Turkey, Syria, Tajikistan, Uighurs (of unclear citizenship) -- but not Russia. It's common for Central Asian recruits to Islamist groups in Syria to be radicalized while they're working as labor migrants in Russia, so that could be the connection. Or it could be something more; Smirnov didn't elaborate.
As for the "Tajik trace," Tajikistan's Interior Ministry responded to Smirnov's comment by saying that it "wasn't confirmed" and that Smirnov likely was referring to the fact that the bomber had two Tajikistan passports with him. Both passports were of Tajik citizens now in Syria, RFE/RL reported, citing Tajikistan law enforcement sources.
As it happens, the SCO is about to start its annual Peace Mission anti-terror exercises, which are in Kyrgyzstan this year. More on that to come.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.