Kazakh authorities are concerned the south of the country is on the brink of being dragged into a conflict with Islamic militants, according to a report on Thursday by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Kazakhstan’s neighbours, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have been subjected to armed incursions by members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) for two years. The increase in extremist activity has alarmed the Kazakh Security Council. “There is every reason to expect a worsening of the situation on the southern border of the region in the spring and summer of next year,” council secretary Marat Tajin said. Kazakh fears have also been raised by media reports of an increase in the number of unregistered religious organisations. Orthodox groups such as the Khizbut-Takhrir have been stepping up their recruitment efforts in the region, IWPR said. In an effort to counter the terrorism threat, the Kazakh capital Astana, was introducing a number of measures including plans to extend army service for reserve officers, the creation of a new military district in the south and the setting up of 25 new frontier checkpoints. The report by IWPR said snipers were being recruited from the ranks of local hunters in an urgent bid for experienced fighters. With central asian republics plagued by political instability, mutual distrust and concerns over porous borders, the prospects of combating terrorism in the region did not look good, the report said. According to a Kazakh defense ministry spokesperson: “Uzbekistan is continually accusing Kazakhstan and Russia of exaggerating the danger posed by the Taliban and the IMU and raising tension in the region. The shortage of information about the problem and the absence of a willingness to share that information fully doesn’t help either,” IWPR reported.
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