Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Kyrgyz Republic

Overview: The Kyrgyz Republic’s counterterrorism efforts continued to focus on rooting out those it considered “extremists,” countering the spread of “extremism,” limiting the flow of Kyrgyz national FTFs, and preventing those returning from conflicts abroad from engaging in terrorist activities. 2018 marked the first year of implementation of the Kyrgyz government’s first national program and action plan on combatting terrorism and “extremism.” Terrorist attacks in the country remained rare, but the August 2016 suicide bombing against the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek and continued reports of terrorism-related arrests in 2018 underscored the potential threat facing the country. No terrorist attacks were reported in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2018. The Kyrgyz government restricts public information on national security issues, making it difficult to assess the efficacy of its counterterrorism operations and the true extent of the threat. The country remained vulnerable to transnational threats, especially in the remote south, where ill-defined and porous borders allow for the relatively free movement of people and illicit goods in and out of the country. According to government statistics, an estimated 850 Kyrgyz citizens have left the country to join ISIS or other terrorist groups. Most experts believe the true number is higher.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2018.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no major changes to counterterrorism legislation or law enforcement capacity related to counterterrorism in 2018. There were also no reports of the government using counterterrorism laws to prosecute political opponents.

Kyrgyz authorities continued to report terrorism-related arrests in 2018, many of which involved Kyrgyz and foreign citizens who reportedly fought in Syria. In 2018, law enforcement agencies reportedly disrupted one planned terrorist attack and arrested at least 30 people on terrorism-related charges, over half of whom were reported to be returnees from foreign conflict zones. In October, authorities reportedly uncovered a sleeper cell consisting of five foreigners and four Kyrgyz citizens who were recruiting locals to fight in Syria and Afghanistan and were reportedly planning to carry out attacks in the Kyrgyz Republic. In addition, Kyrgyz courts, in coordination with security agencies, reportedly blocked at least 36 websites and 22 social media accounts that were purportedly spreading “extremist” material. Because of the opaque nature of the Kyrgyz government’s counterterrorism operations, however, it is impossible to verify information about these and other incidents. In 2018, Kyrgyz police units participated in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance’s program on behavioral observation skills course.

In 2018, the government reportedly installed three sets of electronic gates (e-gates) at the Manas Airport in Bishkek and two e-gates at the Osh Airport to verify biometric passports of Kyrgyz citizens. There is no information indicating that the government is using these e-gates to scan passengers against a terrorist watchlist. The government has expressed interest in acquiring an API System for commercial flights, but is unlikely to move forward on this initiative without significant donor support.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: There were no significant changes in 2018. The Kyrgyz Republic belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a FATF-style regional body. The EAG conducted a mutual evaluation review of the Kyrgyz Republic in September 2018.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism: In 2018, the Kyrgyz government began implementing its first national program and action plan on combatting terrorism and “extremism.” The action plan lays out approximately three dozen tasks that relevant government agencies will implement over the next five years, in cooperation with civil society and the international community, in some cases. While the approval of the program and action plan was a positive first step in establishing a coordinated counterterrorism and CVE national strategy, no new programs or significant accomplishments resulting from either document were reported in 2018.

The Ministry of Education, in cooperation with the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA), is in its third year of a program to develop a new curriculum for high school students on a government-approved form of Islam and identify terrorist recruitment tactics. The Ministry of Interior and SCRA, often in cooperation with local religious leaders and civil society, continued to host CVE roundtables and seminars and produce public awareness and counter-messaging material distributed across a range of media platforms, with much of the focus on preventing radicalization amongst youth and women. The Kyrgyz government cooperates with the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international organizations and foreign governments, to facilitate CVE training and other CVE-related assistance programs.

In 2018, UNODC continued to support the Kyrgyz Prison Service to develop strategies to manage the spread of extremism among prisoners and prevent radicalization. The U.S. Embassy supports the Kyrgyz government’s CVE efforts with a range of programs, including speaker and exchange programs, vocational training and other support for madrassa students, and the establishment of local crime prevention centers to address the drivers of radicalization and terrorism in at-risk communities. Nonetheless, discrimination against ethnic minorities, corruption, security force abuses, and challenges with local governance remain underlying – and unaddressed – factors in radicalization to violence.

International and Regional Cooperation: In 2018, the Kyrgyz Republic participated in counterterrorism activities and trainings organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The Kyrgyz Republic participated in seven regional military or law enforcement counterterrorism exercises in 2018, two of which were hosted by the Kyrgyz Republic. As a member of the C5+1 diplomatic platform, the Kyrgyz Republic participates in the associated C5+1 Security Working Group, which focuses on regional cooperation on counterterrorism and CVE.