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<p class="lead">On New Year’s morning in 2017, at 01.15 hrs, Abdulkadir Masapirov opened fire on the crowd in the Reina nightclub in Istanbul. The 34-year-old Uzbek attacker, armed with a Kalasnikov and grenades, killed 39 people and injured another 65 partygoers. The massacre shocked not only Turkey but the world as well. Although there had been previous attacks by Islamic State fighters on Turkish targets in 2016 and before, this was the first time the role of Central Asian jihadists had come to light.</p>
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<p>Academic experts and analysts have been following the growing presence of extremists in Syria and Iraq who have come from Central Asia and the Russian Federation. The so-called ‘Russian-speaking’ contingent of volunteers have a significant presence in both Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (the local al-Qaeda outfit formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra).
There are around 4,000-5,000 people of Central Asian origin fighting alongside major Islamist and jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq. National authorities (even in Europe) are struggling to maintain proper statistics about volunteers leaving for jihad in the Middle East. According to official estimates, the number of local jihadists fighting with Islamic State is 500 in Kyrgyzstan, 400 in Kazakhstan, 1,000 in Tajikistan and 360 in Turkmenistan.</p>
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