Kyrgyzstan chairman of State Border Service claimed on July 24 that around 10,000 militants have gathered near the southern border of the country and raised concerns about the possibility of terror attacks and violent incursions. Authorities deployed a small detachment of troops to the town of Sary-Tash, south of Osh. Additionally, the State Committee of National Security announced the arrest at least two individuals on terrorism charges in mid-July. Further security operations in southern Kyrgyzstan are possible in the coming weeks.
Terrorism in the country has increased in the last two decades, following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Armed violence primarily is focused around the southern parts of the country, in areas south and west of Osh, where there are more ethnic and political tensions, although there have also been attacks in the capital of Bishkek. The border with Tajikistan is sometimes subject to closure without warning.
Kyrgyz authorities believe that over 500 citizens have left to join transnational terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State (IS), part of an estimated 5000 fighters from Central Asia that have traveled to Iraq and Syria. It is possible that foreign fighters may return and potentially carry out attacks in their home countries.
On July 29, assailants attacked and killed four Western tourists in Tajikistan, about 150 km (100 miles) south of Kyrgyzstan. Details are forthcoming about the precise motive, though officials have stated the tourists were deliberately attacked.
Individuals in Kyrgyzstan are advised to exercise vigilance and remain observant of their surroundings. Follow instructions issued by local authorities and avoid crowded places, if possible. A surge in anti-American and anti-Western sentiment is likely in some areas; all travelers, and Westerners in particular, are advised to maintain a low profile (do not discuss sensitive topics, do not take photographs of demonstrations, etc.) and avoid unnecessary movements in the event of unrest.
On a separate note, ethnic and political tensions continue to exist in the Kyrgyzstan, especially in the south. Supporters of terrorist groups and anti-Western, anti-Semitic, extremist organizations may attempt to target US or Western interests in the region.
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