Kazakhstan

Overview:  Kazakhstan remained alert to the potential for both externally directed and homegrown terrorist attacks.  The government described widespread civil unrest in early January as a terrorist attack.  The government continued rehabilitation and reintegration efforts for Kazakh foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and associated family members repatriated from Syria and Iraq.  NGOs and independent observers expressed concerns that terrorism and “extremism” laws were applied overly broadly, in some cases against political opponents and adherents of non-violent religious movements. 

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  The government described widespread civil unrest in early January as a terrorist attack, and later as an attempted coup.  The unrest included armed attacks against government buildings and security servicemembers by criminal groups aligned with elites opposed to the current government.  At least 238 individuals died because of the violence and the government’s response.  Trials against the accused Kazakh citizen organizers of the violence were ongoing at year’s end.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Kazakhstan has a comprehensive CT legal framework.  The lead CT agency is the Committee for National Security (KNB), which coordinates efforts at both the central and local levels.  In 2022, the government concluded a five-year program to counter religious “extremism” and terrorism.  Law-enforcement officers and prosecutors continued to have wide discretion to determine what qualifies as terrorism or “extremism,” leaving political opponents and adherents of non-violent but unregistered religious groups vulnerable to prosecution.

Kazakhstan bans its citizens from fighting in foreign wars.  The government has prosecuted fighters and others suspected of active participation in terrorism in Iraq and Syria while assisting other returnees with reintegrating into their communities, including by providing access to state-supported theological counseling and psychological, social, and educational services.  From 2019 to 2021, Kazakhstan returned more than 600 of its nationals, mostly women and children, from Iraq and Syria.  There were no new repatriations in 2022.

Law-enforcement units demonstrated a strong capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents.  The KNB reported it disrupted three terrorist attacks in 2022 and prevented 134 foreign citizens involved in terrorism or religious “extremism” from entering the country.  The government convicted 56 persons for terrorism or “extremism” related crimes.  Local researchers have estimated that up to 90 percent of charges filed under laws against terrorism and “extremism” do not involve real or planned violent acts, and in some cases appeared to be connected to political opposition activity.  For example, police in Uralsk arrested two civil society activists in April for alleged participation in a political party banned as an “extremist” organization.  Courts also continued to deliver harsh sentences for the promotion of “extremism” online.  For example, an Almaty court in March handed down a sentence of five years’ imprisonment to a blogger for posting online “propaganda” critical of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Kazakhstan’s Border Guard Service (part of the KNB) and other agencies proactively worked to prevent Kazakhs and foreign citizens with suspected terrorist links from traveling to, from, or through Kazakhstan in line with UNSC 2396.  This included the use of specialized equipment to interdict suspicious or unauthorized travelers at both official and unofficial air, land, and sea crossing points.  Through a 10-year contract with the multinational security technology company IDEMIA, Kazakhstan has been working since 2018 to install and operate an API and PNR system to screen travelers. 

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (the EAG), and its FIU, the Financial Monitoring Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a member of the Egmont Group.  In 2022, Kazakhstan updated its Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism law in preparation for an EAG mutual evaluation planned for completion in 2023.  The new amendments require legal entities to disclose their beneficial owners; increase authorities’ ability to freeze funds and other assets of entities associated with the financing of terrorism, “extremism,” or weapons of mass destruction proliferation; and formalize practices for reporting entities to monitor activities for money-laundering and terrorist-financing risks.  The Prosecutor General’s Office transferred three terrorist financing cases to the court system in 2022.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Kazakhstan continued efforts to promulgate officially approved versions of Islam to youth and provide alternatives to “extremism” through social programs and economic opportunities.  Working with religious experts, psychologists, and theologians, the Ministry of Information and Social Development conducted direct outreach in communities across the country; maintained an educational website on religion, state policy, and prevention of terrorism; and operated a nationwide hotline offering consultations on religious questions.  At the same time, the government continued to block online content it considered “extremist.”  In 2022 the government identified more than 120,000 websites as promoting “religious extremism” and terrorism, blocking more than 11,000.  The government also continued to implement rehabilitation and reintegration programs for individuals convicted of “extremism”-related offenses and their relatives.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Kazakhstan partnered with the United States and international organizations such as the UNDP, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the OSCE on a variety of CT and CVE projects.  As a member of the C5+1 diplomatic platform, Kazakhstan participates in the associated C5+1 Security Working Group, which focuses on regional CT and CVE cooperation.  The Department of State’s CT Bureau continued implementation of technical assistance projects focused on managing FTF and terrorist inmates in prisons and building the capacity of practitioners supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration of family members from Syria and Iraq.  The U.S. Agency for International Development also launched in October a five-year, $15 million regional program to reduce the risk of, and increase resilience to, violent extremism.

Kazakhstan also participated in CT-related exercises and training through membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), CSTO, and SCO.

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