The Russian head of an ex-Soviet military pact that includes three Central Asian nations warned Tuesday that the organization's members must act urgently to combat the threat of radical Islamic groups.
In the wake of the ousting of Kyrgyz leader Askar Akayev, observers have said that such groups could step up activity as Krygyzstan's new leaders try to restore order, and suggest that religious militants in Central Asia could find inspiration in the swift and almost effortless overthrow.
Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary general of the six-nation Collective Security Treaty - a pact that links Russia with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - said in an interview with the Izvestia daily that coordinated action was essential to stop the threat from spreading further.
"We should take coordinated steps to counter the attempt of Islamic extremists in all member states of the organization. I stress that the efforts should be coordinated because these networks are like mercury that flows from one country to another," he said.
The radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which advocates the creation of an Islamic state in the Central Asian region, is a particular worry, he said.
"Hizb-ut-Tahrir is very active throughout Central Asia, damaging the consciousness especially of young people, importing religious dogmas in a bid to form a social base.
"We have to prevent this trend. Otherwise we will face a lot of problems," he said, warning of a "struggle based on religion that has no peaceful resolution."
Authorities in the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan - which is not a member of the Moscow-led security pact - blame Hizb-ut-Tahrir for attacks there last year that killed more than 50 people. The group, which is banned in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and in Russia, claims to reject violence.
Radical Islamic groups emerged in predominantly Muslim Central Asia after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have both seen bombings and incursions blamed on extremist groups.