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Azerbaijan Detains Citizens Recruited by ISIS in Syria

By Ilham Karimli February 28, 2023

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Employees of the State Security Service of Azerbaijan / Courtesy

The State Security Service of Azerbaijan has detained Azerbaijani citizens who were recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organization.

The operational and investigative measures carried out by the Service, which found that Mirjavad Salahov was affiliated with the ISIS, led to his detainment on February 24 on suspicion of committing criminal acts related to the financing of terrorism.

Baku-based Caliber.Az news service reports that Mirjavad Salahov has joined the ranks of ISIS in the Syrian city of Raqqa, where he later attended a special training camp.

Salahov was later promoted to be accountant in the terrorist organization and oversaw the transfer of monthly funds and food to the terrorists and their families who participated in armed conflicts.

His tasks as an accountant also involved the allocation of material assistance to members of the organization who were wounded during armed conflicts and the families of the dead.

Salahov managed to escape criminal responsibility by hiding in various countries, the State Security Service revealed.

Earlier on February 21, Salahov’s brother Mirjalal Salahov was also arrested by the State Security Service employees. He is believed to be a key accountant for ISIS who also brought his brother Mirjavad into the terrorist organization’s ranks. Furthermore, he was reportedly wounded during the battles orchestrated by ISIS in Syria.

Mirjalal Salahov was charged under articles 281-1. and 283-1.3 of the Azerbaijan Criminal Code for participating in armed conflicts outside the country.

The government of Azerbaijan has spared no effort in implementing measures to neutralize all kinds of terrorist threats to the people, internal order and sovereignty of the country.

In a 2020 Country Reports on Terrorism, the US Department of State labeled Azerbaijan as a terror-free country, attributing this achievement to well-coordinated anti-terrorism activities pursued by various government bodies.

“In 2020 the Azerbaijani government actively worked to deter, detect and defeat terrorist efforts to move people, money, and materials across its land and maritime borders and within the South Caucasus. Azerbaijani law enforcement and security services historically have conducted operations to disrupt and prevent terror attacks, arrested and prosecuted suspected terrorists, and prosecuted returning Azerbaijanis suspected of joining or financing terrorist groups fighting outside Azerbaijan,” the report stated, adding that no terrorist incidents were reported in the country in 2020.

According to the report, close coordination between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service, involving the State Border Service, and the State Customs Committee yielded positive results in preventing terrorist acts and efforts inside the country. The government bodies used terrorist and criminal watch lists, and biographic/biometric screening at ports of entry. In addition, they shared the data between the two sides and with regional and international partners to prevent any terrorism-related activities, including the transportation of people, money, and materials – including weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – across Azerbaijan’s territory.

The law of Azerbaijan on the Fight against Terrorism identifies what activities are considered terrorism and how those affiliated with such activities are defined and punished. A terrorist, according to the law, is a person who is directly or indirectly involved in deliberate acts of terrorism as an organizer, instigator, assistant, executor or eager, as well as helps knowingly a terrorist group, an organized group or a criminal community carry out terror activities. According to the legislation and interstate treaties to which the country is a party, such persons can be prosecuted and punished, or they may be returned to foreign countries for bringing to criminal liability or for the execution of assigned punishment.

The State Department's report mentioned the Azerbaijani government's efforts to consolidate non-combat struggle against violent extremism through education and awareness.

Alongside the persistent efforts to block terrorist activities and efforts within Azerbaijan, the officials in Baku contribute simultaneously to global anti-terror efforts. Azerbaijan supports NATO counterterrorism initiatives as part of the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace program. Peacekeepers from Azerbaijan served in Afghanistan alongside US forces under NATO’s non-military Resolute Support Mission. The International Contact Group’s conference dedicated to promoting peace and security in Afghanistan took place in Baku in June 2018.