In the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, the National Security Committee responded to and foiled an attempted strike by militants (reportedly members of ISIS), who planned to attack the city during the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, as well as attack the Russian air base in Kant, north of Bishkek. The four militants were killed during the operation and seven members were detained. Four Kyrgyz officers were injured, with no civilian casualties. Authorities seized several Kalashnikov assault rifles, AKSU shortened submachine guns, sawed-off shotguns and a number of TT and Makarov pistols, along with 500kg of explosive material and a substantial sum of money.
The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry knows that there are at least 350 Kyrgyz nationals who have gone to join ISIS, and authorities report that the majority of them are ethnic Uzbeks from the Ferghana Valley region of Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyz authorities, like many other nations, have been concerned with some of their Muslim population becoming radicalized, joining militant groups and returning home to conduct attacks on behalf of these radical organizations.
Unlike recent ISIS activities in the Former Soviet Union, which has predominantly focused on recruitment throughout the region, from Central Asia to the North Caucasus to the Far East and in Moscow, the attempted attacks in Kyrgyzstan are suggesting that militants are now looking to expand their area of operations to the Former Soviet Union. Recruitment still seems to be necessary, as in this attack, four extremists were killed and seven detained, suggesting only a small in-country presence currently. The money seized was likely marked for recruitment, as well as for financing operations.
Given that the attacks were meant to strike both Kyrgyz nationals and the Russian military, regional security cooperation becomes even more important. Following these attacks, interoperability and intelligence sharing between CSTO members becomes even more necessary. Additionally, with significant Muslim populations, most CSTO nations will likely be increasing their efforts to combat radicalization at home in the wake of the attempted attacks in Bishkek.
The threat from ISIS and Islamic extremism is not limited to one region, and despite current lows in relations caused by events in Ukraine, NATO members and the CSTO should be working to combat this threat together, as it is a serious security concern for many nations of both organizations. While some NATO members do not have significant Muslim populations to consider it a serious threat, others have cause for concern. With the point of both organizations being collective security, it is necessary for all members of NATO and the CSTO to aid allies in matters of security. While Russia and NATO members are currently at odds, combating the threat of extremism should be a global priority and the perceived Russian threat should be, if not done away with, sidelined for the time being. This will unfortunately be very unlikely due to distrust and animosity between sides, despite the benefits even just intelligence sharing between the two security organization would provide.
The success of the Kyrgyz operation to prevent the attacks should not be overshadowed, however, the threat extremism poses to Kyrgyzstan and other nations in the region remains. Regional cooperation and a strong, cohesive international community are necessary to stem the flow of extremism. The protection of civilians is of the utmost importance in this fight, and should remain the priority despite differences between CSTO and NATO nations.
Copyright 2015 The Sentinel