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Religion Terrorism

Uzbekistan and Islamic State: Phantom or Foe?

Flag of Uzbekistan. Image: Giorgio Minguzzi/Flickr

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet.org on 13 November, 2015.

Numerous recent news accounts in Uzbekistan would seem to indicate mounting agitation over alleged activity by Islamic State — an extremist organization not previously known to have made inroads into the country.

Dozens of individuals have reportedly been arrested on suspicion of having links to the terrorist group, and some security forces are said to have been placed on high alert amid concerns about possible unrest. For all the clamor, little is understood about whether Islamic State has genuinely established a presence in Uzbekistan, and whether semi-official claims of anti-terrorist sweeps can be taken at face value.

In the latest case to draw public attention, Tashkent-based website 12news.uz cited an unnamed Supreme Court official on November 13 as saying a 23-year old man called Muhammad Abdullaev had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his association with Islamic State. 12news.uz has served as a conduit for multiple alarming stories about alleged Islamic State incursions into Uzbekistan.

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Tajikistan: Potential Energy Boom Could be Geopolitical Game-Changer

Colorful Old Oil Barrels. Image by L.C.Nøttaasen/Flickr.

There’s a potentially huge story developing in Tajikistan: Central Asia’s poor cousin may be sitting atop a vast pool of oil and natural gas. Yet, no one in Dushanbe – neither government officials, nor energy company executives – seems eager to discuss the prospect of an energy boom.

In July, Tethys Petroleum announced that its development zone in southwestern Tajikistan could hold over 27 billion barrels of recoverable oil equivalent. The estimate, if accurate, would represent more than the remaining oil in United Kingdom’s North Sea field. In a July 19 press release, Tethys boss David Robson asserted that Tajikistan had “super-giant potential.”

It’s not just Tethys – a company listed on both the Toronto and London stock exchanges, and registered in the Cayman Islands – that seems to believe in Tajikistan’s energy-production potential. Russia’s state-controlled conglomerate Gazprom has already started drilling a 6,300-meter well to reach what it hopes to be more than 60 billion cubic meters of natural gas, while Australian-based Santos is starting seismic studies after acquiring a 70-percent share in Tajikistan’s Somon Oil.

But since that initial burst of fanfare announcing its potential oil find back in July, Tethys executives have become tight-lipped. Representatives of the company repeatedly declined to speak on the record to EurasiaNet.org on oil and gas-related issues in Tajikistan. Gazprom and Santos are similarly reticent.