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Kyrgyzstan assesses anti-terror capabilities
More than 40 training sessions have been held to improve strategies
By Asker Sultanov
BISHKEK – Over the past six months, the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (SCNS) Anti-Terrorist Centre (ATC) has held more than 40 training sessions to identify security weaknesses at strategic energy, transportation and communications facilities.
Security forces’ ability to identify hazardous objects (bombs, for example) and to detain terrorists was evaluated during the training, Taalaibek Japarov, deputy director of the SCNS ATC, said.
“The purpose of staff exercises is to ensure that state authorities co-operate efficiently in combating terrorism and other manifestations of extremism,” Japarov said. “Such measures are particularly relevant in light of increased activity by international terrorist organisations, both internationally and in Central Asia and in Kyrgyzstan.”
Other aims of the anti-terrorism exercises were to increase the level of co-ordination between security agencies and to improve the skills of the government personnel involved in fighting terrorism, he added.
“These skills will be crucial in the event of a simultaneous terrorist threat across different regions of the country,” Japarov said. “The goal of the anti-terrorist exercises is to identify and address flaws in the physical defence system at strategic facilities and to enhance co-operation between the agencies involved. This should boost the country’s ability to deal with the terrorist threat.”
During the training, the ATC benefitted from experience gained by the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), OSCE and other Central Asian countries, he said. The OSCE and ATC have enhanced co-operation to prevent and combat violent extremism and radicalism, to increase Kyrgyzstan’s ability to fight internet misuse for terrorist purposes, and to strengthen the ATC’s ability to ensure that strategically important facilities are secure from terrorist attacks.
In addition to conducting anti-terrorist exercises, the ATC will be participating in the review of existing laws for fighting terrorism and religious extremism, Japarov said.
Tougher penalties foreseen
In July, the ATC proposed a bill to parliament to lengthen punishments for terrorism and religious extremism. The bill would mandate 8 to 15 years’ imprisonment for those crimes, compared to 5 to 10 years now.
The ATC also is proposing stiffer penalties for those distributing, sending, transporting and acquiring extremist religious literature. Existing law punishes those who distribute extremist materials. The ATC wants possession of materials also to be a crime.
Japarov said his organisation’s key plans for the second half of 2012 include:
- To monitor the situation regarding counter-terrorism and extremism ... and improve the effectiveness of anti-terrorism measures, the ATC will continue to hold expert-level meetings with anti-terrorist agencies to discuss emerging issues, devise comprehensive security programmes and protect strategic facilities from subversive and terrorist threats.
- And to prevent terrorism and extremism and to identify sites vulnerable to terrorists, joint staff antiterrorist exercises and other activities will be conducted across the republic’s oblasts. Plans are in place for concerned government departments, research centres, civic institutions, and international and other organisations to hold joint scholarly conferences and training seminars on the issue of countering terrorism and extremism.
Why ATC’s work is vital
The ATC’s work is important because terrorist and extremist organisations are expected to become more active in Kyrgyzstan, Japarov said.
“The situation in our region is inextricably linked to the processes in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, where the Islamic Jihad Union and Islamic Movement of Turkestan bases are located, generously supported by al Qaeda and the Taliban. According to various predictions, following the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, it is possible that the situation will worsen and that we will see an escalation in terrorist activity, with militants penetrating the borders and an increase in drug trafficking. This would lead to total destabilisation in Central Asia, and for this reason we are taking steps to neutralise and minimise these threats.”
In an interview with Central Asia Online, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security, Tokon Mamytov, praised the ATC’s work. However, the organisation needs to enhance international co-operation, he said.
“No country can cope with the terrorist threat on its own, so I would recommend that the anti-terrorism centre co-ordinate closely not only with the CSTO and the SCO but also with NATO and ... the European Union,” he said.
“Of course, the primary task of the ATC is to co-operate with neighbouring countries such as China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan,” Mamytov said. “The second level of co-operation should include a partnership with ... Canada, Germany, Britain and other countries, and the third level of collaboration should include the intelligence agencies of ... Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have much to learn from those (last two) countries, especially given that a large number of young people are taken there for (terrorist) training.”