Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 151

In the night of July 30-31, an unidentified group attempted to break into a television relay station near Chauvai, Kadamjai district, Batken Region, approximately forty kilometers inside Kyrgyzstan from the Tajik border. The guards fired and forced the intruding group to withdraw. Kyrgyz officials gave contradictory explanations of the incident. According to the Batken Region’s deputy governor, the ten or so attackers aimed to seize the relay station. In the adjacent Osh Region–from which Batken was recently carved out, and in which security forces are heavily concentrated–the head of internal affairs troops offered a similar version. Both of these officials stated that an exchange of fire had taken place at the station. A Kyrgyz Army Colonel and a National Security Service Major were cited as corroborating this version by Bishkek media.

In Bishkek, the National Security Minister, General Bolot Januzakov speculated that the attackers may have been drug traffickers. Also in the capital, however, the deputy secretary of the Security Council, General Askarbek Mameev, downplayed the incident as the work of “hooligans.” Both officials maintained that there was no fire exchange; only the guards fired in the air. Other Kyrgyz officials denied that anything had happened at all. Internal Affairs Minister Tashtemir Aitbaev described the attackers as mercenaries in a “commercial war” for private gain. Obliquely reassuring Uzbekistan, Aitbaev ruled out any decision to grant the militants a “corridor.”

On August 2, however, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed responsibility for the incident. In an interview with the BBC, the movement’s political leader Tahir Yuldash stated that the attackers were IMU militants; and that they had not crossed over from Tajikistan, but were based in Kyrgyzstan. For his part the IMU’s spokesman, Zubair ibn Abdurahim, told the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting that this same group of IMU militants had been responsible for the July 25 attack on a Kyrgyz military post in the Batken Region on the border with Tajikistan. The spokesman warned that a “jihad” was in progress against Uzbekistan as the “main target,” but also against Kyrgyzstan because its government opposes the IMU.

The incidents–whatever their nature–and the conflicting accounts seem to add up to a war of nerves between the IMU or its allies and the Kyrgyz authorities. IMU spokesmen may be bluffing. But the authorities would seem to be poorly coordinated and to lack reliable intelligence (Kabar, Kyrgyzpress International, Bishkek Radio, July 30-31, August 1-4; “Kyrgyz IMU Fears Mount,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting–Central Asia, no. 63, August 3; see the Monitor, June 13, 26, July 30).

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