Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

Create: 05/24/2015 - 09:16

Kabul ( Pajhwok):The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is an insurgent organisation that was founded in 1998 after an end to the civil war in Tajikistan. Tahir Yuldash and former Soviet paratrooper Juma Namangani, both ethnic Uzbeks belonging to Fergana Valley, set up the dreaded group.
Having close relations with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the founding members of IMU were sentenced to death in absentia for a series of bombings in Tashkent in 1999.Although its pan-Islamic message is largely rooted in rhetoric against American and Israel, the group has been seeking enforcement of Shariah and removal of Islam Karimov’s government.
The IMU is allegedly involved in organised crime such as controlling and facilitating drug smuggling, particularly heroin from Afghanistan to Central Asia and Europe. The United States says the outfit receives funding from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Active in several Central Asian regions, the group has been under strict monitoring. It was declared a terrorist organisation by the US in 2000, the UK the same year and Russia in 2003. Australia and Canada have also designated it as a terrorist entity.
In the wake of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was toppled, IMU was largely destroyed while fighting alongside the Afghan insurgents. Namangani was killed in November 2001 in northern Afghanistan.
In March 2002, Yuldash and many of his fighters fought against Coalition forces during Operation Anaconda in Shahikot Valley, suffering heavy casualties before fleeing to Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.
The group developed close ties with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants hiding in Waziristan. IMU members served as bodyguards for senior insurgent commanders in the regionand enjoy friendly relations with local tribes. Many of its members were sheltered by TTP commander Baitullah Mehsud. The outfit forged close ties with the Haqqani Network after the 2009 killing of Yuldash in a US drone strike.
The IMU became increasingly active in Afghanistan and was regularly cited as a terrorist threat by governments within and outside the region. The fighters stepped up their activities in Afghanistan in 2007, fighting in support of the Taliban insurgency against Afghan and ISAF troops.
In 2010 the IMU began expanding its presence into Uzbek-dominated areas in and around Takhar province in northern Afghanistan. Its commanders integrated into Taliban's shadow government in areas where the government's writ was weak.
The same year, the IMU announced that Yuldash had been killed exactly one year ago on August 27, 2009 in a predator drone strike in the Waziristan tribal region near the Afghanistan border. He was the key figure in the Islamic insurgencies that roiled Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and much of Central Asia in the 1990s.
Soon after Uzbekistan won independence following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Yuldash and his childhood friend Jumaboi Khojaev founded the Islamic organisation "Tovba," (Generation) in Namangan. During President Islam Karimov’s visit to the town in December 1991, Yuldash tried to lecture the leader on good governance.
Yuldash and Khojaev were thus put on a government list of troublemakers. Later, they fled to neighbouring Tajikistan in 1992, where a civil war was ongoing. They joined an Islamist group, the Islamic Renaissance Party, which was battling a government comprised mainly of former Soviet officials.
Yuldash reunited with Khojaev -- who had taken the alias Juma Namangani -- and the two set their sights on overthrowing the Uzbek government. They are widely believed to have funded their efforts by controlling a drug-trafficking route out of northern Afghanistan into southern Kyrgyzstan.
In August 1999, some of their followers came down from the mountains into southern Kyrgyzstan and captured a small village, taking scores of people, including four Japanese geologists, hostage.
In 1999 and 2000, the IMU reached the zenith of its sway. Although it failed to overthrow the Uzbek government, with Yuldash as spiritual leader and Namangani as military commander, the IMU insurgency caused a great deal of concern throughout Central Asia, particularly in Fergana Valley.
Some other Central Asian rebel groups like the Turkestan Islamic Party or the Kazakh one, the Jund al-Khilafa, which emerged in 2011, merged in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. They use their names, like 'Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,' as a brand for propaganda and recruiting purposes.
With the situation having changed drastically, some of IMU militants leaving Pakistan are going farther than Afghanistan. Without much trouble, many of its recruits are believed to have reached Syria recently to join forces with ISIS in compliance with orders from their new leader Mujahid Osman Ghazi. The trip to Syria is seen as much easier and cheaper for militants.