Central Asia new haven for fanatics

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at bom4.vsnl.net.in
Tue Apr 4 18:22:02 PDT 2000

Tuesday 4 April 2000

Central Asia new haven for fanatics MOSCOW: After burning their fingers in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, trained mercenaries are seeking fresh pastures to export their brand of `fundamentalism', with Tajikistan, Kazhakastan and Kyrgyztan emerging as the their new hotspots. Novosti reporting from the Kazhak capital, Astana, where defence ministers of the `Shanghai group' comprising Russia, Tajikistan, Kazhakastan, Kyrgyztan and China, held discussions recently on the lurking danger said, a few hundred of these extremists have already concentrated in these regions of Central Asia. Kyrgyztan's national security council chief Bolot Zhanuzakov, talking to mediapersons said, ``Soon the strength of these Afghanistan-trained terrorist could reach the 5,000 figure''. Earlier, a few hundred of the Central Asian fundamentalists, mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks, had reached up to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, during president Boris Yeltsin's visit there, the agency adds. Meanwhile with flames of ethnic violence reaching its own borders, China has joined ranks with Russia and the three other former Soviet republics to face the growing menace. Harping on the `Shanghai group' strength, formed two years ago, all five have once again voiced their resolve to fight the threat unitedly. The group was formed to settle their border disputes and check the growth of fundamentalism from Afghanistan under the Taliban. After the meeting, an official of the group said the latest meeting of the `Shanghai group' has targeted the recent concentration of mercenaries and their local abettors who were using religion to fan ethnic hatred. Besides, Kyrgyztan sources have said that the Afghan Taliban are harbouring hopes of creating an `Islamic caliphat' - an extremist state entity - in the fertile Ferghana Valley and its adjoining areas. This is cause for concern to Russia which fears southern Kyrghyztan could act as a springboard for separatists to dismantle the Russian federation. (UNI) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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