Kazakh court sends 47 men to prison for terrorism
A closed court in Kazakhstan has sent 47 men to prison for two bomb attacks last year linked to an increasingly prominent Islamic extremist group.
The convicted men were given prison sentences of between five and 15 years for links to the bomb attacks against government buildings in October in the western oil town of Atyrau, Kazakh media reported, after one of the biggest terrorism trials in Kazakhstan's 20-year post-Soviet history ended on Wednesday.
Last year, a series of attacks linked to Islamic extremists challenged Kazakhstan's reputation for stability and infuriated Nursultan Nazarbayev, its 71-year-old president. Mr Nazarbayev blamed extremist foreign preachers and the internet for spreading banned literature and videos which radicalised young Kazakh men.
In response, Kazakhstan introduced laws which allowed more surveillance of the internet and a cut back on religious freedom.
The main Islamic extremist group to emerge last year was the previously unknown Jund al-Khilafah. The group, which is reportedly based on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and whose name in Arabic means Soldiers of the Caliphate, claimed a handful of attacks in Kazakhstan against government buildings last year in retaliation for the crackdown on Muslims.
More recently, Jund al-Khilafah said it had trained Mohamed Merah, the French-Algerian killed by police in March after he had shot dead three paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish children.
Posted by: Steve White