Soldiers of the Caliphate: myth or reality?

Outlawed group unlikely to find support in Kazakhstan, observers say

By Gulmira Isakova


ALMATY – Ever since a group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate) made itself known in Kazakhstan earlier this year, the country has looked at extremism as a growing threat, although opinions differ as to whether the group is real and how strong it is.

Soldiers of the Caliphate has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist acts, including two explosions in Atyrau October 31. The group has posted several messages on the internet describing a recently enacted law on religion as “wrong” and threatening to use violence.

Group has no standing in Kazakhstan

A group operating outside Kazakhstan and whose members might even not be Kazakhstani citizens has no right to make any claims against Kazakhstan, Ruslan Primbetov, a scholar of religion, said.

“The group has no charter and no distinct ideology, and it isn’t clear how many members it has – probably, a dozen or two at best,” he said.

Nevertheless, Astana has identified the Islamic group as a terrorist organisation. Soldiers of the Caliphate’s operation on Kazakhstani soil is banned, Nurdaulet Suindikov of the General Prosecutor’s Office announced November 30.

“In accordance with the Atyrau city court ruling of November 25, this organisation was identified as terrorist and its activities in this country were prohibited,” he said. “Anybody affiliated with Soldiers of the Caliphate will be prosecuted for involvement in terrorist activity.”

Kenzhebulat Beknazarov, spokesman for Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB), refrained from commenting on the matter at this time.

If this group has taken responsibility for terrorist acts, this means it exists, KNB Col. (ret.) Arat Narmanbetov said.

“(The events linked to Soldiers of the Caliphate) are so extraordinary that they qualify as terrorist acts, and that’s why there’s so much uproar,” he said. “People are concerned that more such acts may follow.”

Soldiers of Caliphate is obscure

The group is still little known, Almaty Helsinki Committee head Ninel Fokina said. “Lack of accurate information always breeds idle talk,” she observed. “The agencies that are supposed to know (about the group) don’t seem to have any information – otherwise they’d make it public. When there’s no information available, people start gossiping and the media ... start multiplying rumours.”

While acknowledging a lack of information about the group, Ongar kazhi Omirbek, spokesman for the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan, said Soldiers of the Caliphate does more harm than good to his organisation.

“We don’t need this kind of disservice, since it’s our internal political affair,” he said. “The people themselves will decide whether they agree with the (recent) Law on Religion and Religious Associations ... (Soldiers of the Caliphate) shouldn’t be threatening us. I think they are demonstrating their ignorance and rudeness, and we don’t need such a disservice from them.”

The statement made by Soldiers of the Caliphate came as the first direct threat to security in Kazakhstan, a country where 70% of the population are Muslims and which previously had seen no terrorist acts, Omirbek added. Mullah Ibrokhim kori Dosypayev of Almaty first learned about Soldiers of the Caliphate from news reports this autumn.

“My neighbours and acquaintances have been asking me what kind of group it is, but neither my colleagues nor I have ever heard anything about it,” he said. “I think it’s just a handful of impostors who failed to succeed in life. I don’t expect them to find any support in this country.”

Meanwhile, Primbetov said, a video statement reportedly recorded in the Atyrau remand prison appeared on YouTube December 4, showing repentant former supporters of Soldiers of the Caliphate urging the group to lay down arms.

The Atyrau Penal Department, however, has not confirmed the recording was made in the remand prison under its control. The department is investigating whether the video was shot in Atyrau, department spokeswoman Bakhytgul Marazbayeva said.

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Reader Comments

  • These are soldiers of caliphate, they are real, they exist, and you will never understand it.

    April 23, 2012 @ 01:04:40PM Гамул
  • Soldiers of the Caliphate have no faith. They work off the money they borrowed for themselves, their families and businesses, and failed to repay.

    January 29, 2012 @ 08:01:46PM kannat
  • It was a setup by secret services to start a crackdown and fight the opposition. Terrorists never engage in small intimidation tricks, such as blowing up a trash can, then killing a lone bandit. The NSC needs it to obtain additional funding for alleged secret agents. The money is unaccounted for.

    January 29, 2012 @ 01:01:36PM Галымжан
  • No matter what language we speak, it is important that kindness lives in each person's heart so that we understand and love each other. Just give each other smiles, shake hands, let there be peace on our land. All the very best.

    January 29, 2012 @ 11:01:53AM татьяна
  • Kazakh Muslims are too fond of life now, and today to respond to appeals by fanatical Muslims that they can buy happiness after death in exchange for their lives. And therefore, if some terrorist psychos emerge in Kazakhstan, their efforts will be doomed to failure - it is not a good soil for them.

    January 29, 2012 @ 06:01:46AM Ирина
  • It is very scary when ignorant and uneducated people believe that after killing innocent people they can live happily. If they do not believe that, let them try to do it to themselves. They do not even have the right to touch the loved ones. There is only one who decides who lives and who dies because he sends us to Earth to do good deeds for people.

    January 28, 2012 @ 11:01:26PM Сергей
  • The RK government in no way should overlook the looming threat posed by those who call themselves "soldiers of the Caliphate." It is necessary to immediately reconsider the country's domestic policies. The peace of the nation touted by some government officials is only a smoke screen: People are angry and a riot, like the one in Zhanaozen, is quite possible. Top officials be wise!

    January 27, 2012 @ 01:01:37PM Мадэл Исмаилов
  • I live in Kazakhstan, in Aliaty. The level of democracy here is comparable to Russia. We also prosecute government officials for corruption and put them in prison. But they are tenacious. The soldiers of the Caliphate are a myth. The terrorist acts were masterminded by Kazakhstan's secret service to keep people worried and put pressure on the independent media. By the way, Almaty Mayor, Viktor Hrapunov, just like your Luzhkov, stole $500 mil and fled to Sweden. But our president steals thousand times more than Putin or Medvedev. The president of Kazakhstan is old and weak, it's time to dump him. It's time to dump him.

    January 26, 2012 @ 03:01:59PM Серик
  • I was born and I live in Kazakhstan. This is my home, and my heart gets torn to pieces when these bastards disturb people, and they are now taking advantage of the Adai people's national patriotism. They are good people, steppe residents; they always offer food to their guests, no matter what nation they represent. In general, the Kazakhs are very hospitable and grateful people. Extremist bastards should not poke their nose here. Leave our people alone, we will handle everything ourselves. We need to work. If you want to blow up, go to the steppe to blow up bombs. Why did you kill innocent people? Why did you attack security officials? It's their job, they are forced to do it by the state, and it is not up to us to decide if they are good or bad. If they are bad, the state will punish them.

    January 25, 2012 @ 11:01:33AM Сергей
  • Strange people you are. What kind of question is this: "Why do they do it?" War is the best business! In struggle for power all means are good! The genie released by western intelligence agencies had already gone to "the people" and become almost self-sufficient, but I think it is still controlled by the West! Kazakhstan has all conditions for the genie - hydrocarbons and the discontent masses, so let us play democracy a little... and get peacekeepers and precision strikes. (We need to deal with them ourselves, without delving into what and how!)

    January 25, 2012 @ 07:01:07AM прохожий
  • Islam and Muslimization has been imposed on us by the Middle East, whose origins are based on the Abrahamic, i.e. truly Jewish religion. Howeverm we try to honor our "own" religions. On the inside, all of us belong to one Jewish faith - the Abrahamic religion. So think, if you have brain, why do we kill and hate each other? All of this propaganda is funded by foreign money, targeting short-sighted and ignorant people. Judging by the result, there are plenty of us.

    January 24, 2012 @ 07:01:54PM kannat
  • Nikita correctly observed that one should earn a decent living, and not beg for the money. Only idleness and, consequently, poverty make it easy for bad guys to recruit people into an "ideological" hole by promising them "paradise." Now, all options are open for education and decent work. Unfortunately, many people still believe that someone else should think for them and hand feed them. In Kazakhstan, no one will follow these "soldiers," except for renegades, who have no honor, no talent, and no homeland.

    January 24, 2012 @ 01:01:50AM aborigen
  • I am for peace in Kazakhstan! The soldiers of the Caliphate are not people! People do not give in to provocations. There is no better life than in Kazakhstan! Citizens of Kazakhstan enjoy living in the RK!

    January 23, 2012 @ 11:01:54PM Nurlan
  • May God save us all!

    January 5, 2012 @ 05:01:13PM Никита
  • Hello to all extremists! A big request: please do not disturb our people. If you want to fight, go where war is going on. Our people love peace and quiet. And we live, thank God, quite well. If you do miss something, in the material sense, find a job, work day and night and you will have money and wealth. Shooting will do nothing good. To the website authors: sorry that I use your site to appeal to these ... I don't even want to name them ... I want peace and quiet for myself and my children, and my relatives, and the people of Kazakhstan. Write more articles about their crimes. Let the people know what they want from us because they disturb common people, and they run after them.

    January 5, 2012 @ 04:01:37AM Акерке
  • I don’t know this organization, but they’ve done worse. In Kazakhstan (I am from Astana), there is no strict division on religious or national grounds. Praise be to Allah, our people don’t judge by skin color or religion. With these explosions they are just spreading fear and labeling Muslims as terrorists again. Why are they doing it? They are only making things worse for Muslims.

    December 12, 2011 @ 10:12:16PM Алиби