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Kazakhstan Jails 12 'Who Tried To Join IS'

A Kazakh police officer blocks a street near the site of a fire exchange between Kazakh security forces and suspected militants linked to deadly attacks this week on a national guard base and several firearms shops, in Aqtobe, June 2016.

A Kazakh court has sentenced 12 men who were found guilty of attempting to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

A judge in the northwestern city of Aqtobe said on July 12 that the key figure among the defendants, Zhanbolat Sarsembaev, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Sarsembaev was convicted of organizing a terrorist group along with other terrorism and extremism-related charges.

Most of the other defendants were sentenced to six years in prison.

According to the court the men -- all of whom are unemployed -- tried to obtain forged Kyrgyz and Uzbek passports to travel to Syria to fight alongside IS militants.

The judge said they had established contact with the IS group via the Internet.

The trial took place behind closed doors.

The judge told the defendants they can appeal the ruling.

Kazakh authorities say some 300 Kazakh nationals have joined IS fighters in Syria and Iraq.