IMU : The Uzbek Conundrum
By Sabena Siddiqui
Tahir Yeldoshev aka Qari Tahir Jan was leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan ,he was called Vice bin Laden by the Russians as the roots of IMU were from Al-Qaeda.
Yuldashev first came to the attention of Uzbek authorities in the early 1990s, when he and Jumaboi Khojaev led a group of disillusioned Islamist activists to overthrow the communist government and establish an Islamic regime .
The IMU was formally announced in 1998 , and for the next three years, they launched a series of attacks and raids in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, becoming the most dangerous Central Asian militant group also known for narco-trafficking.
Crackdowns in Uzbekistan made them move to Kunduz in Afghanistan ,they found safe havens there after the movement was totally banned in Uzbekistan.
By 2002 the IMU almost ceased to exist in fighting alongside the Taliban against coalition forces in Afghanistan most of their fighters were killed.
After US-led forced toppled the Taliban in late 2001 , Yuldashev managed to find sanctuary in Waziristan and since then the Uzbek militant contingent reportedly regrouped, running training camps and working with the Pakistani Taliban ,the TTP.
In March 2004, Pakistani forces surrounded the base, but he escaped whilst his fighters mounted a fierce defence.
The Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan became official in December 2007 under Baitullah Mehsud , the first ‘commander ‘ of the rebel outfit . Baitullah Mehsud was under considerable influence of Tahir Yuldashev who imbibed a hardline Shia ideology to him and proudly called himself and his supporters “enemies of Jews and Christians”.
Yuldashev enjoyed close links with Mehsud for a few years after his relocation to Waziristan .
The first fatwas against Pakistan army and government were announced under his tutelage and a chain of bloody suicide bombing was started .
In one of his fatwas he said Jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan is equal , he urged the local fighters to carry out Jihad in Pakistan and let Afghan Taliban take care of Afghanistan.
This fatwa is sufficient to understand his greed for power. Astonishingly their objective was to oppose the state of Pakistan, enforce their own interpretation of sharia and work against NATO.
Yuldashev was killed by a US missile in August 2009 in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region , his disciples tried to keep his death a secret as a leadership tussle was feared.
Today IMU has turned into a group of international mercenaries , IMU leaders are focused on the international black market and drug trafficking, while the militant membership’s ambitions still remain bound to Uzbekistan becoming a caliphate.
The IMU makes money by drug trafficking, racketeering, solicitation of donations abroad and employment of its suicide mission mercenaries.
Whatever its many problems, the IMU continues to raise the funds it requires.
It has some potential to fight a proxy war and destabilise a region , the Afghan Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan might give the IMU a foundation to threaten Karimov’s grip on power in Uzbekistan which was their initial aim .
The IMU name is now a brand to recruit fighters for any terrorist mission.
It seems improbable that any of the ideology of an Islamic Caliphate is still there in this band of mercenaries.
Recently , the IMU claimed credit for the June 8-9 attack on Pakistan’s Karachi airport.
Before this the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) had also accepted responsibility.
The IMU announced online on June 10 that they were responsible for the Karachi Airport attack , attached were photos of 10 men wearing turbans and holding Kalashnikovs, claiming they were IMU fighters who carried out the attack in Karachi as revenge for the bombardment by Pakistani armed forces in the Waziristan region. They also made a few wild claims regarding the damage they purportedly caused while they in fact had been contained totally in the hangar area outside an old airport terminal not used any longer. They were exterminated. within a few hours and they never left the hangar area.
The attack left at least 39 dead, including the 10 militants. Pakistani security forces remarked that the gunmen were all ethnic Uzbeks. Intel that such an attack would take place was given to the government as early as January 29, it seems the plan was delayed a bit and then they travelled in pairs from NWaziristan to Karachi where they joined their sleeper cells.
It is understandable that the TTP might have had a collusion with the IMU for this attack as it has splintered into various groups all at daggers drawn with each other and needed some re-inforcement.
A similar incident happened on May 2011,10 terrorists attacked the PNS Mehran naval base in Karachi. At least 15 people, including Navy and Rangers personnel died in the attack.
The shadow of IMU existed even in that attack , those terrorists were also Uzbek.
The TTP is a spent force specially these days so this dormant force may have been used by them or the other powers that might be playing this game of proxies.
The Uzbek fighters are anti-Pakistan from the beginning as taught by Yuldashev , they have this alliance with TTP based on a common cause and common interests.
A little more background about the IMU is necessary here , Mir Ali, sub-division of North Waziristan is their hub ,they are concentrated in the villages of Khushali ,Hassu Khel, Mussaki and Hurmaz.
In North Waziristan , the Uzbeks are famous as butchers quite literally , in all the brutal beheading videos distributed by the Taliban , the role of butcher is mostly performed by Uzbeks.
They are cold and mentally sick , enough to behead human beings and cut the limbs afterwards.
Other militant groups always hire an Uzbek for such tasks , it is just a wild guess that they might be drug addicts to perform such brutal acts.
Another strange thing is that in all the villages where they reside , they create their separate area or enclosure .For example , in Hormaz village , a complete part of the village has a concentration of Uzbek houses only , locals are not allowed to build houses in the neighbourhood.
They also marry local girls by force at times , while they do not allow marriages of their girls with the locals of North Waziristan. For all practical purposes , there is nothing Islamic about their way of life.
A story circulates in the town of Mir Ali ; once a local man of Mossaki village gave his daughter,s hand in marriage to an Uzbek. After a few days the girl managed to escape and reach her parents , she narrated that she did not know which one was her husband out of the five brothers as all five of the brothers had established physical contact with her.
The Uzbeks have no religion, morals or values as highlighted by this story so it is unimaginable that they know anything about the Quran,s teachings and Shariah.
In Central Asia, analysts have long worried that the IMU might become a real threat after the US and NATO withdraw from Afghanistan.
They think that the IMU will move out of the shadows as soon as the American troop withdrawal weakens the Afghan central government. On the other hand, this small militant outfit could be in the control of India’s RAW , Afghanistan,s NDA or Uzbek intelligence services. Pakistan army is fully aware of this Uzbek factor which is being played like a shadow against the state , the air-strikes carried out early this year targeted the very same villages where the IMU is based.
The statement released online on 11th June by IMU contains these words
” Indeed, the jihaad which is fardh ayn (obligatory) in Afghanistan is also fardh ayn (obligatory) in Pakistan. Verily, it is fardh ayn to establish Allah’s Shariah in Pakistan as it is fardh ayn to establish it in Afghanistan”
Signed by Usman Ghazi , Ameer of IMU
This is almost like a declaration of war and these mercenaries need to be dealt with suitably.