Kazakhstan: More than 300 citizens are now members of ISIS

The intelligence agency of Kazakhstan has provided an estimate for how many Kazakh nationals are fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and apparently, half of them are women. Nurtai Abykayev, chairman of the Kazakh National Security Committee (NSC), reported that a new fighting unit or “jamaat” was created by these nationals. These estimates come from a video circulated late last year that showed a group of Kazakh militants lead by a man named Sayfaddin al-Kazakhi (literally “the Kazakh”) declaring jihad.

These reports have set off a wave of paranoia and panic among the population in Almaty and Astana about the threat posed by “Wahabi” Muslims, and after reports that locals observed Orthodox Sunni militants gathering in locations around the city, fears have been stoked within the government and general populace that extremists could be anyone. Kazakh political scientist Dosym Satpayev is quoted in the NSC report as saying “we are living in the third wave, when militants who fought for an Islamic Caliphate are starting to return home. The huge risk is that they will start diversionary activities in Kazakhstan. And if before these people were from the margin – uneducated, unemployed, or with a criminal history – now the makeup of the militants has substantially changed.”

However, it must be pointed out that much of these reports remain “scare stories.” There are, however, serious considerations among the heads of state in the CIS that IS recruiters are targeting young Central Asian men. Director of the FSB in Russia, Alexander Bortnikov, has long said that the numbers of recruited IS militants from Russia has jumped to 1,500 from an estimate earlier of around 1,100.

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