Kazakhstan: unknown terrorism


On June 5th, 2016 a group of terrorists seized the weapons store in the Kazakh city of Aktobe.  Armed extremists then seized a passenger bus and attempted to assault a military unit.  As a result  of the fighting in the city, 17 people were killed. It is the largest surge in terrorist activities in the country over the past few years.  According to Kazakh officials the attackers belonged to a "sectarian religious group."

New terrorist attack in Kazakhstan coincided with protests against the current government. The reason for the protests was a draft law on the transfer of land for long-term rent to foreigners. Opponents of the regime fueling Sino-phobia used this initiative to start gather dissatisfied people frightened by the prospect of the possibility of lands of Kazakhstan be taken into possession by the Chinese. Then the protest organizers on the pattern of color revolutions shifted the attention of protesters to criticize Nazarbayev's regime. The main slogan was: "The old man (President Nazarbaev –ed.) go away!". Mass demonstrations were held in Aktobe, Atyrau, Semipalatinsk and Alma-Ata. Due to the timely action of law enforcement agencies, they managed to suppress the color revolution in the very beginning. Islamists and nationalists have become one of the driving forces behind the protests. They are supposed to be used  as the leading combat force of the revolution. Western media covered anti-government rallies sympathetically. The point of view of the extremists was voiced by "Radio Liberty", funded by the United States.

Atyrau, where there was a terrorist act - not only one of the epicenters of the protest instability, but also a long-time hotbed of terrorist activity. In 2011-2012, the territory of the city and region was one of main points of terrorist attacks unleashed against Kazakhstan.  On May 17th, 2011, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the building of the National Security Committee (Kazakh secret service) in Aktobe city. In July 2011 in the Temir district of the Aktobe region, a special operation against an armed group, that killed two policemen and wounded several more, was conducted.  On July 8th 2011, nine terrorists were killed.

Another center of terrorist activity is Atyrau. On October 31st, the city of Atyrau witnessed two explosions. The first was in the courtyard of an apartment house in the garbage, and after just a few minutes in the Sary-Arka neighborhood, an unidentified man did a suicide bombing and died on the spot. The Kazakh Prosecutor General's Office filed two criminal cases under the article of "terrorism." Responsibility for the bombings in Atyrau was taken by the group "Soldiers of the Caliphate." Several terrorist attacks and counter-terrorist operation took place in the Atyrau region in 2012.
In 2012, Islamic terrorists committed mass murder in Ile-Alatau National Park, not far from Alma-Ata. Then, 12 people were killed. In 2011, in the south of the country in the city of Taraz, terrorists killed sevenpeople, five of whom were police officers and two civilians. In May of 2011, terrorists attempted to plant a bomb under a car in the capital of Astana.

According to the 2009 Census, 70% of the country's population is Muslim. Traditionally, religious extremism and radicalism are features not peculiar to the Kazakh Eurasian Islam, which is closely intertwined with the local customs and pre-Islamic beliefs. The growth of extremism in the country is the  symptom of the last decade. This features Wahhabi propaganda that goes along with the cash flows from the Gulf countries, and the influence of neighboring Central Asia, where the Islamists traditionally have strong position played a major role. Most terrorists are generally young people, ethnic Kazakhs. The problems related to authority, education and popularity of leaders of traditional Islamic communities are actively used by Wahhabis to promote their propaganda and attack traditional Islam. According to the ICSR, in ISIS ranks in Syria and Iraq there were about 400 citizens of Kazakhstan. More terrorists have come only from Russia among the CIS countries.

Kazakhstan and and neigboring countries

From the perspective of international relations, regarding Kazakh terrorists, two zones can be distinguished:

1. West and Central Kazakhstan - has close ties with the Russian North Caucasus. There lies the Vainakh diaspora and other peoples from terrorist troubled Northern Caucasus. Extremists in the region have strong ties with terrorist underground of the North Caucasus, the Volga –Ural region and Russia as a whole.

2. Southern Kazakhstan, Astana and Almaty - more communication with Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan. Here the extremists come from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Through these countries a terrorist corridor opens to Afghanistan. Sustainable terrorist activity in these regions suggests that on the territory of Eurasia, two major cross-border terrorist areas are formed: Volga-Ural-North Caucasus-West Kazakhstan and South Kazakhstan-Central Asia-Afghanistan. Kazakhstan plays a pivotal role for Islamic extremism. It is the country in Northern Eurasia, where North Caucasian and Central Asian extremist networks are intertwined. Thus if destabilized, it creates an unbroken chain of Islamic radicalism in the southern underbelly of Russia.

In fact, terrorists have carried out their own "Eurasian integration". The solution can only be joint actions of law enforcement bodies of Russia, Kazakhstan and the Central Asian states and the strengthening of the Eurasian integration processes in the field of security.

Outbreaks of terrorist activity usually coincide with outbreaks of protest activity, organized by the West. Since the wave of terrorist attacks, in2011-12 these coincided with protests in the oil industry in Zhanaozen. Now an attack occurred against the backdrop of land statements. This suggests that Islamic extremism is used by western intelligence agencies as a means for rocking the situation in the country.

Despite the multi-vector policy of Kazakhstan's leadership, which prefers not to quarrel with the West, the US and its allies can work towards the destabilization of the situation in the country, especially in the context of the confrontation with Russia. Kazakhstan is one of the key actors in the Eurasian integration process, which leads to the strengthening of Russia as a Eurasian power. In addition terror and instability in Kazakhstan, which has a large Russian population, will create another hotbed of destabilization on the border of Russia with the prospect of the spread of negative trends in the Russian Federation itself.