Cross border movement of militants into Central Asia

Daily Times, June 25, 2005
Pak-Afghan militants entering CARs: Lavrov

MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan were training for attacks against Russia and former Soviet Central Asia and that they periodically cross into Central Asian territory.

Terrorists, “with the participation of former Taliban and participants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” were training in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan with the aim of “conducting terrorist attacks, including on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov claimed at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

He said the militants had penetrated into the Fergana Valley, shared between the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and he proposed that Russia and NATO work with those countries’ special services “to ensure that such activity is stopped.”

Lavrov made his allegations in response to a question on why Russia did not support Western calls for an independent, international investigation into last month’s violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan.

Government troops there opened fire on a crowd of thousands of protesters after militants had freed inmates from a prison, stormed a police station and military barracks, and taken over the local administration building. Witnesses and human rights groups say hundreds of peaceful civilians were killed. “We don’t need to support such calls because from the very first days, we have been saying that while investigating this, special attention needs to be paid to these aspects: to determine who, how, under what circumstances and with what aim this group of people was organized,” Lavrov said, referring to the protesters, whom both Russia and Uzbekistan have alleged to be Islamic extremists.

NATO has joined in Western calls for an independent, international investigation of the Uzbek violence, while Russia has steadfastly backed the Uzbek government and blamed the unrest on international terrorists.

“We have discussed Uzbekistan, and this is where NATO and the Russian Federation do not have the same position,” De Hoop Scheffer said.

Lavrov reiterated previous statements that special services of interested foreign countries have information on who was behind the violence, but he said he could not reveal more for fear of helping terrorists. De Hoop Scheffer did not indicate whether NATO countries had received such information. ap

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