According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Turkmenistan’s embassy in Belarus’ website has been hacked by individuals claiming links to ISIS.
The brief RFE/RL report, based on a Belarusian science and technology news site – 42.tut.by – notes that the hacked site carried a black and white photograph of a man wearing a black mask, emblazoned with the ISIS logo, and holding an AK-47 before being taken offline.
A text above the photo said in English “Hacked by Abdellah Elmaghribi” and in Russian: “The website is in the service of the regime.”
A sentence below the photo read: “#Struck by Abdellah Elmaghribi And Moroccan Wolf. By ISLAMIC STATE HACKERS (El Moujahidine) Your Security Get Owned.”
At the time of writing, the website has been taken down and the embassy has not yet released a statement.
Turkmenistan, which has been fiercely neutral since independence, made news recently for its response to the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan. Earlier this year Turkmenistan began mobilizing its reserve military forces, according to Eurasianet, based on officials quoted in Central Asia Online, a Pentagon-funded website generally known among the region’s watchers for its overly positive outlook on the activities of Central Asia’s autocrats:
This is the first large-scale and serious … mobilisation of reservists in the nearly 24 years of the country’s independence,” Defence Ministry official Agamyrat Garakhanov told Central Asia Online, calling the number of called-up reservists a “state secret.”
In March, rumors began circling about Uzbek and Russian troops at the Turkmen-Afghan border. Casey commented in The Diplomat that even if the rumors were just rumors, they “help point to Turkmenistan’s sudden concerns about its southern flank – and help play into the narrative of ISIS’s burgeoning presence in Afghanistan.”
What isn’t a rumor, however, is that Turkmenistan has asked the United States for assistance to deal with ISIS. In recent testimony before a congressional committee, the commander of U.S. Central Command noted that the country “recently expressed a desire to acquire U.S. military equipment and technology to address threats to their security along their southern border with Afghanistan.” As I noted last week, CENTCOM doesn’t spend much time thinking about Central Asia but overall U.S. policy in the region is fundamentally linked to the security piece. It is unclear what assistance the U.S. may provide in response to the request.
There is nothing to solidly link the hacking of Turkmenistan’s Belarusian embassy website to ISIS yet, but it nonetheless feeds into the narrative the country has crafted.