By Jonny Tickle
Dormant groups of terrorists could be hiding quietly in Central Asia, biding their time and planning attacks, the Kyrgyz foreign minister declared, just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a similar stark warning.
Speaking as part of an interview with RIA Novosti published on Tuesday, Ruslan Kazakbayev said that he believes Islamic militant organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS could be operating sleeper cells in the region as part of efforts to “promote their ideology.”
However, the diplomat added, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces won’t necessarily have a destabilizing impact on the region. “When we talk about sleeper cells, then this is not about the Taliban,” he said. “The leadership of the Taliban has previously stated more than once that it is focused only on the internal agenda and has no plans for expansion outside the country.”
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Putin warns terrorists & Taliban fighters ‘disguised as refugees’ could be flowing out of Afghanistan amid chaos of US withdrawal
ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are all designated as terrorist organizations and banned in Russia. On Sunday, speaking to members of the governing United Russia party, President Vladimir Putin cautioned that fighters could be hiding among the exodus of desperate people fleeing Kabul.
“Who are these refugees? How can we tell? There may be thousands, or even millions,” Putin said. “The border is a thousand kilometers – they will get on everything, a car, even a donkey, and flee across the steppe.” According to the Russian president, this poses a potential security threat and “is a direct concern for our citizens.” He added that “we do not want fighters disguised as refugees to turn up in our country.”
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UN Refugee Agency warns Afghanistan crisis ‘cannot be forgotten’ as people at risk ‘have no clear way out’
In 2016, Putin instructed Russia’s top domestic security agency, the FSB, to closely monitor those arriving in the country as refugees, or traveling onwards within Europe. “The cause of this refugee crisis is the destabilization of entire regions of the world, first of all in the Middle East,” he said at the time. In addition, he ordered officials to “safely close the territory of Russia” from penetration by militants and to “uncover and neutralize” terrorists.
According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, there were already 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan in 2018, before the latest rounds of fighting and violence. Now, officials say a further 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced since January alone. At least 12,000 people have been evacuated as part of airlifts from Kabul airport since the city fell to the Taliban last weekend.
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