Portrait of Kazakhstani terrorist
Kazakhstan’s political scientist Yerlan Karin studied the problem of terrorism in Kazakhstan and provided a detailed socio-demographic portrait of a typical local terrorist, Tengrinews reports.
Karin emphasized that global indexes rate Kazakhstan among countries with very low terrorist threat.
To make the research comprehensive and credible the Kazakhstani experts first went abroad visiting various antiterrorist centers. To identify the causes of terrorism in Kazakhstan, the Center for Security Programs, an NGO, conducted a survey from November to March 2014.
The research included an analysis of materials of terrorism criminal cases solved between 2004 and 2013, interviews with those convicted in these cases and interviews with relatives and friends of the convicts, Karin said.
227 people were interviewed, 150 convicts among them. “One of the important things is that we found out the mechanism used by various groups to interact with each other, and put together a timeline of unfolding of the terrorist network at the territory of Kazakhstan,” Karin said.
The servey showed that terrorist groups in Kazakhstan were not interconnected, but still had knowledge of each other and maintained some contact. There was a “horizontal interaction” among them. "However, they still lacked a single decision-making center to plan and coordinate terrorist activities in a coherent manner, he said.
In addition, the NGO painted a socio-demographic portrait of the convicts it surveyed. 55% are young people aged 17-29; around 35% are aged 35-39. The youngest participant was 17 years old at the time of the offense, the oldest one was 48.
Education was also an important characteristic pointed out by Karin. Some 56 members of radical groups had only a high school diploma. One of the convicts had only finished four grades of elementary school. Only about a third of the convicts went to colleges or universities. And only 6% of the interviewed every studied in religious institutes.
Another characteristic that Karin pointed out, was employment status of the convicts. A clear majority, 73%, of those convicted for terrorism were unemployed at the time of the offense.
The research also includes a completed typology of radical groups in Kazakhstan. After investigating activities of 19 groups, the researchers divided them into three categories. The first type, diversion groups, were created from outside following a clear plan, and there was a clear allocation of responsibilities among its members. Groups of the second type were religious communes forming on their own and often spontaneously from religious youth groups. The third type were gangs. Those involved in groups of the latter type were first engaged in regular criminal activities and only after a certain influence transformed into extremist groups. “The criminal groups constituted a majority of the groups operating in Kazakhstan,” Karin said.
The political scientist further elaborated on the details of the research. According to Karin, the evolution of the threat of terrorism in Kazakhstan had gone through three stages. “I distinguish three stages: the end of the 90s - beginning of the 2000s – the problem of runaway terrorists, when members of illegal armed groups involved in other countries sought refuge at the territory of Kazakhstan. The second period, the recruiting period of 2006-2010, when Kazakhstani citizens, succumbing to foreign propaganda, sought to participate in terrorist activities in other countries. The third stage, was when individual groups, cells attempting to plan this kind of actions, emerged inside the territory of Kazakhstan," Karin said.
The issue of financing of such activities in Kazakhstan was also investigated. Karin outlined three sources of finance: personal savings of members of the groups, criminal activities, such as theft and burglary, and donations from sympathizers. As a rule, the latter was used by terrorist groups operating in other countries. For example, citizens who left Kazakhstan and participated in combat operations in Afghanistan or Pakistan turned to their supporters in Kazakhstan for help.
Karin also noted that every terrorist group had an arsenal of weapons, most of which was acquired illegally. In addition, the weapon stocks were complemented with improvised explosive devices made based on designs and information available on the Internet. This explains that concern of law enforcement agencies and their calls for constant monitoring of websites with extremist content.
"They were armed with conventional hunting rifles but in the southern regions, in Almaty, individual groups were equipped with hand grenades and bazookas. The access to illegal arms trafficking is different across Kazakhstan regions. The arsenals often contained weapons with erased serial numbers. There were also cases when corrupt law enforcement officials resold on illicit market the weapons obtained during voluntary surrender of firearms campaigns," Karin said.
Kazakhstan intelligence agencies managed to prevent strengthening of radical groups and liquidated all of them at the early stages of formation, Karin said.
In its other study, the Center for Security Programs completed a sociological portrait of an average member of a terrorist group in Kazakhstan. The portrait was created on the basis of a comprehensive analysis of Kazakhstan citizens convicted for terrorism in the past 6 years.
According to the study, an average members of a terrorist group is an unemployed 28-year-old young man with a secondary education but without any religious education. He is married and has several children. In addition, a majority of those involved in terrorism are concentrated in western regions of Kazakhstan.
The greatest number of terrorism and extremism cases were examined in Atyrau, Aktobe, Almaty, South Kazakhstan and Pavlodar Oblasts and the city of Almaty itself. In 2013, Kazakhstan’s courts reviewed 38 criminal cases against 83 persons with respect to extremism and terrorism. Of them, 51 were accused of terrorist offenses, while 32 were extremist crimes.
To combat religious extremism and terrorism in the country, a state program for the period of 2013-2017 was approved in October 2013. The main objective of the program is to protect human security, society and the state by preventing manifestations of religious extremism and preempting terrorist threats. The implementation of the program is mandated to central and local executive bodies as well as public authorities who are directly subordinate and accountable to the President.
Reporting by Asemgul Kasenova, writing by Dinara Urazova