The most notorious terrorist organization of Cental Asia is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), known since 2001 as the Islamic Movement of Turkestan (IMT). It is a deeply ideological group, steeped in the theories and techniques of jihadism, and could be regarded as the Taliban of the Pamirs. It is characterized by its anti-democratic vitriol and its equally splenetic condemnation of the Uzbek government. Its cadres are young, violent and strongly influenced by Salafi-Wahhabi doctrine. In three campaigns it waged between 1999 and 2001 against Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, it earned a reputation for ruthlessness and brutality. Police officers who were kidnapped were beheaded; the Movement's sub-units were virtually wiped out in pitched battles with the security forces; if forced to withdraw, they would shoot their own wounded rather than let them fall into the hands of their enemies; even those among their own ranks who tried to take advantage of an Uzbek government amnesty were executed. It is estimated that they and their allies control 70 per cent of the regional drugs trade to fund their organizations. Despite their violent history, however, they have suffered major setbacks. Although they once had bases in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, they were scattered by Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. Their 'alumni' have since trying to regroup, making suicide-bomb attacks in Uzbekistan and issuing new threats, but they have failed to achieve any of their objectives.1

In September 1998, Tohir Abdoulalilovitch Yuldeshev and Juma Namangani (whose real name was Jumaboi Ahmadzhanovitch Khojaev) announced the formation of the IMU in the Taliban-dominated city of Kabul. Concurrently, the 1MU was aligned with the International Islamic Front (m) of Osama bin Laden. Eager to acquire nuclear material and expert knowledge from disaffected residents of the former Soviet Union, bin Laden welcomed the 1MU as another element in his Salafest Wahhabi Al-Qaeda foundation, which is what the m was sometimes called. The IMU leaders, for their part, were conscious that they needed the manpower, expertise and, crucially, the funds that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban could provide if they were stand any chance of fulfilling their ambitious goals. Yuldeshev outlined the aims of the 1MU as the creation of an Islamic state by means of a violent overthrow of the secular governments of Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan.

An examination of the original text of the IMU'S 1998 declaration yields some interesting details which might otherwise be overlooked. The Islamist agenda, as one would expect, is a key aspect: 'We declared a Jihad in order to create a religious system, a religious government. We want to create a sharia system: However, Yuldeshev referred to the inequalities of power as much as transgressions against the faith in his claim that the IMU was 'Fighting against oppression within our country, against bribery, against the inequities - and also the freeing of our Muslim brothers from prison ... We consider it our obligation to avenge [those that have died in prison] and nobody can take this right away from us: Much like their hosts the Taliban, the 1MU sought to establish political and religious justifications for their attempts to seize power, but it was surprising to find an inherent criticism of other jihadist movements. Yuldeshev argued, 'We want the model of Islam which has remained from the Prophet, not like the Islam in Afghanistan or Iran or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia - these models are nothing like the Islamic model.' These remarks hint at a long-standing tension between the Wahhabism of bin Laden and the interpretation of the 1MU leaders and, moreover, reflect a common set of fault lines that divides all jihadists. Yuldeshev believed that 'Before we build an Islamic state we primarily want to get out from under oppression. We are therefore now shedding blood, and the creation of an Islamic state will be the next problem ... We don't need foreign contacts because our roots are deep and are located in our homeland.' The 'deep roots' are a reference to the anti-Communist Basmachi resistance of the 1920S; Yuldeshev clearly believed that Karimov's regime was merely an extension of the old Communist order. The comment about foreign contacts is, however, a curious one, particularly when foreign volunteers (as opposed to Central Asians) have been a prominent feature 0 fthe movement. The remark may have been intended for an Uzbek audience, to assert the purity of the cause and not deter nationalists, but it may also have been intended to warn other jihadists like Al-Qaeda not to try and direct the organization (a point that had created some irritation between 'Afghan'-Arabs and mujahedin in the 1980s). On one point, though, there was no doubt at all. Negotiation or compromise was not to be considered. Yuldeshev bellowed, 'We do not repent our declaration ofJihad against the Uzbek government. Inshallah, we will carry out this Jihad to its conclusion.'

The uncompromising attitude of the IMU can be traced back to the months immediately after Uzbeksitan's independence. Yuldeshev, a fiery mullah, had led a protest delegation at Namangan in the Ferghana Valley in December 1991 against the town's mayor.3 The dispute centred on the mayor's refusal to grant permission to build a new mosque, fearing the radical purpose to which Yuldeshev and his followers would put it. Yuldeshev and others stormed the local Communist Party of Uzbekistan (cpu) offices and occupied them. Unsure of the intentions of this apparent fringe group, the government took no action. This only emboldened Yuldeshev further. Having already acquired funding from Saudi Arabia and gathered some 5,000 activists about him, he imposed strict prayer regimes on local people.4 He insisted that women give up their traditional colourful scarves and embroidered clothing in favour of white burqas. Vigilantes enforced these rules and carried out night patrols to combat crime. Shopkeepers were also subject to spot-checks to keep prices stable. New madrassahs were opened, each propagating Yuldeshev's radical brand of Salafi-Wahhabi Islam. In Namangan, his mosque was adorned with a slogan’overthrow the Karimov regime. After a brief period studying at an IRP run madrassah in Tajikistan in 1992, he was forced to move on again by the outbreak of the civil war. Like many IRP leaders, he sought refuge in Afghanistan and assisted in leafleting, but he soon realized that he would have to establish more extensive networks of support if he was ever going to realize his aim of seizing power in Tashkent. He travelled to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, picking up information about the ideology and methods of Islamist groups. Perhaps the most important organization he made contact with, however, was Pakistan's IS1. They gave him funds and allowed him to establish a base at Peshawar, the city that stands as the gateway of the lawless North-West Frontier Province. Between 1995 and 1998, Yuldeshev was able to make contact with a variety of jihadist groups. The Jamiat-i-Ulema Islami, the organization that provided funds for the Taliban, also raised cash for Yuldeshev and helped move his followers into Pakistan's radical madrassahs. Critically, the Arab-Afghans, who were allies of the Taliban, provided him with an introduction to bin Laden.s Uzbek volunteers were also able to train in terrorist tactics in Afghan or at frontier bases through their madrassah contacts. These international contacts helped Yuldeshev build even wider networks.

Although unconfirmed, it is likely that Yuldeshev received funds from Islamist 'charities' and front organizations, some of which concealed official intelligence services. Uzbeks exiled to Saudi Arabia in the 1920S, many of whom had become Wahhabis, may have been an obvious point of initial contact, but Saudi businessmen also channelled funds into Yuldeshev's organization, and there may have been contacts with the chief of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal. A more certain aspect of his odyssey is that Yuldeshev travelled to Chechnya during the first war; from there he advocated a militant-spiritual and armed Islamic revolution in Uzbekistan. This platform was carefully chosen. Apparently speaking from the heart of the Islamic struggle against infidels, he was aiming not just to broadcast the anguish of fellow Muslims but to establish himself as the leading spokesman of the wider Central Asian cause. His audience was clearly the one that lay across the Caspian to the east, but some Chechens would later join the IMU and fight in the hills of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to assist their former friend and ally. This sort oflinkage was also evident in Yuldeshev's visits to Turkey. Here he made contact with Islamists and argued that a pan-Turkic caliphate in Central Asia would directly assist a similar grouping in Turkey itself. Meanwhile, funds were secretly carried into Uzbekistan to help establish sleeper cells which would provide crucial support to a future insurgency.

The other important exile from Uzbekistan in 1992 was Juma Namangani, the former Soviet paratrooper and Afghanistan veteran who had undergone a radical 're-conversion' to Islam after fighting the mujahedin.6 N amangani had been involved in the storming of the CPU offices in his hometown and, like Yuldeshev, was on the run because of Karimov's crackdown. He had arrived in Kurgan Tyube, a southern province of Tajikistan, with a following of 30 militant Uzbeks and a handful of Arabs who had been funding Adolat, Yuldeshev's radical party. Gradually more Uzbeks joined Namangani's group, as well as foreign volunteers who had grown disillusioned with the Afghan Civil War. Arab fighters saw in Namangani's movement a chance to project the international jihad beyond the squalid and desultory struggles in Afghanistan. His expertise in Soviet army weaponry, explosives, tactics and drills made him particularly valuable, but it was his desire for action that was attractive to a growing body of militant men. The IRP made use of his experience and skills in the Tajik Civil War, directing him to the Tavildara Valley as a base of operations in 1993. IRP men also joined his band, and, although he twice lost Tavildara, his personal daring and successful ambushes against Tajik government forces in Gorno- Badakhshan and the Karategin Valley earned him a glowing reputation. N amangani directed one critical action at the Haboribot Pass and gained the respect and gratitude of the entire IRP, a fact that was later to protect him from the wrath of the Uzbek and Kyrgyz authorities. The Tajik Minister of Emergencies, Mirzo Ziyoyev, was once the IRP'S chief of staff and therefore Namangani's commander. Namangani called him 'brother' and Ziyoyev acted a key negotiator with the IMU in the late 1990S, producing bitter criticism from Karimov. Given these close contacts, Karimov believed the Tajik government was colluding with the jihadist terrorists.

Nevertheless, Namangani was something of a liability to the IRP even during the civil war, and the sincerity of his jihadist credentials seemed to be in doubt. His former comrades described his understanding of Islam as rudimentary. It was not religion that directed his actions but a desire to take risks and effect immediate changes. While understanding the importance of strict discipline to overcome the stress of combat, Namangani was nevertheless sometimes given to insubordination and tended to act with rashness rather than think through any careful strategy. His military experience in Afghanistan had schooled him in the art of guerrilla warfare, but it is likely that the jihadists simply offered him a sense of purpose, a 'mission', which made those skills valued. Moheyuddin Kabir, the principal advisor to the IRP'S leadership in the civil-war period, noted that Namangani was 'easily influenced by those around him ... shaped by his own military and political experiences rather than Islamic ideology', and that his hatred of the Uzbek government 'is what motivates him above all Namangani refused to accept the compromise peace in Tajikistan in 1997 and became an embittered outlaw rather than a 'heroic leader' of a jihadlst movement. Ziyoyev had to persuade him to end the fighting after long negotiations, but even when the renegade leader agreed, he retained his base in the Tavildara Valley with a small entourage of Uzbeks and foreign fighters. This bandit-in-waiting eventually established himself in Hoit near the Kyrgyz border with a community of 40 Uzbeks and Arabs, as well as his Tajik wife and daughter. With a dismal performance in farming, he turned to running a haulage business between Dushanbe and Garm. The most lucrative cargo was heroin; Namangani had few qualms about shipping narcotics in order to feed his followers, who were growing in number. Essentially, his reputation meant that disillusioned former fighters drifted to his headquarters, as did a large number of Uzbek radicals who were the targets of Karimov's regime. Eventually, by 1999, there were 200 men at Hoit, drawn from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya and the Middle East, some with their families. They urged Namangani to lead an international force against the Central Asian regimes. However, the most critical influences came from two events in 1997. The first was the fact that the Taliban had taken power in Afghanistan. The second was the arrival of Namangani's former leader, Tohir Yuldeshev.

Yuldeshev and N amangani were, in many ways, no further forward in achieving their goals than they had been in that fateful attack on the CPU offices in 1991, but they resolved to change the situation. Although Namangani had been well equipped and had commanded a large force in the Tajik Civil War, he had lost his manpower and much of his firepower. He and Yuldeshev had lost their erstwhile allies, the IRP, to a government of national reconciliation which featured large numbers of former Communists. The remaining base at Tavildara could be closed under the new Tajik government's pressure. However, both men knew that the Taliban were likely to be sympathetic to their cause and that Yuldeshev's networks provided them with an opportunity. However, there had been some development in Uzbekistan itself. Yuldeshev had ordered a variety of vicious atrocities against Uzbek security personnel, resulting in a government crackdown. Eager to snuff out the violence before it gathered momentum, Karimov's regime condemned the indoctrination of Islamists, made a number of arrests and passed the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (1998), which demanded registration of mosques and their ulema.8 Family members of Yuldeshev and Namangani were forced to denounce them as terrorists, and Namangani's mother was subjected to public humiliation until she cursed him. The government and police had threatened those who defied the regime, and there had been accusations of arbitrary arrest, intimidation and even torture of suspects. The Uzbek government's methods were undoubtedly strict, but this was precisely because it felt so threatened. Karimov had been enraged by terrorist attempts to assassinate him and by the gruesome murder of loyal government employees. The effect of this crackdown, of course, had been the alienation of many young Muslim men. Corruption, relative inequalities in wealth and high unemployment added to their anger or despair. Yuldeshev and Namangani, having provoked a stronger reaction from the Uzbek government, now saw their chance to capitalize upon growing internal unrest.

The two leaders decided to move to Afghanistan as a base of operations against the Uzbek government. This was, given Yuldeshev's meetings with the Taliban that year, a natural step. Already the Taliban were offering their newly-won state as a haven for other terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda, which had been forced to leave Sudan in 1996. Yuldeshev's brand of Sunni extremism complemented the Salafest Wahhabi and Deobandi ideologies. The Taliban regarded the IMU as an ally against Karimov because the Uzbek leader had already announced his implacable opposition to the Kabul regime. Moreover, bin Laden was eager to develop Yuldeshev's Adolat as a branch of his own organization. Consequently, Yuldeshev and Namangani announced the creation of the IMU in 1998 in Kabul, committed to the destruction ofthe government in Tashkent.9

The results of the new training facilities afforded to the IMU in Afghanistan were soon apparent: a wave of car bombings across the Uzbek capital in February 1999. Thirteen were killed and 128 injured. In Kyrgyzstan in May of the same year, a similar plot was uncovered before it could be initiated. On 2 April, a shoot-out with an alleged jihadist gang outside Tashkent left eight of the militants dead. Initially, Karimov was convinced that secular political opponents had orchestrated the attacks, particularly members of the Erk and Birlik parties. However, among the 2,000 suspects arrested, there were many Islamists, and it was not long before the Uzbek government regarded the IMU as responsible. Karimov believed that a coalition of his foreign rivals had supported the atrocities, including Pakistan, Turkey and Tajikistan. In particular he referred to the Taliban and Chechen jihadists in the IMU'S support network. The lack of specific focus probably indicated just how little the Uzbek government knew a~out the attackers, although Uzbekistan's intelligence services were not devoid of information. The government appeared to be concerned that militants and democrats might forge an alliance and take control of the Ferghana Valley, as in Tajikistan. As always, conspiracy theorists and cynics argued that the Uzbek security services were probably behind the attacks themselves, creating an opportunity for a crackdown against opposition groups.'O In fact, Karimov did not need the bloody murder of so many to rationalize such a policy. There is plenty of evidence to show that he was genuinely furious about the attacks since they undermined the tough, impregnable image he liked to project. Similar ideas that renegade members of his clan, or those who aimed to separate the Ferghana Valley from Uzbekistan were behind the attacks lack any substantiating evidence.

Karimov's first response was a diplomatic offensive, but this was only partially successful. He tried to undermine the IMU by deliberately appealing to the Taliban. However, at a meeting in Kandahar in June, Mullah Omar refused to negotiate unless Uzbekistan recognized the legitimacy of the Taliban government. Typically, the Taliban engaged in deception, denying they were assisting the IMU and refusing to extradite any of their members. Relations with Turkey were just as fruitless. The Turks, incensed by accusations that they had assisted the IMU, broke off diplomatic relations. This did not deter the Uzbek courts from convicting 22 men of terrorism, accusing them of receiving support from Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan and Chechen trainers. Karimov also exerted pressure on Tajikistan. He accused Rahmonov's government of harbouring the IMU; it is true that the terrorists were operating from a base in the Tavildara Valley. However, Rahmonov's authority was hardly accepted in some of the more remote parts of the country, and the government had to rely on former IRP comrades to persuade the IMU to evacuate to Mghanistan. Nevertheless, Uzbekistan's diplomatic efforts to neutralize the IMU did not prevent a terrorist offensive against Kyrgyzstan in the late summer of 1999. It was clear that tougher measures were needed.11

Namangani cultivated his image as an Islamist freedom fighter by actually avoiding media coverage, but his campaign was reliant on the myth rather than the reality of his power. Despite an offensive of kidnapping and murder in southern Kyrgyzstan, and a declaration of jihad against Uzbekistan in August 1999, he avoided the limelight. He let his reputation flourish instead. Like bin Laden, it was the clandestine nature of the man that spread his appeal and allowed rumours to develop. The real, as opposed to the mythologized, Namangani, was able to combine his experience of organizing and fighting an insurgent campaign with this growing reputation to mobilize an increasing number of men. Some were styled 'sleepers', with instructions to assist the IMU fighters when needed. While this appears to have been a clever strategy to enlist the local population, it could also be seen as evidence of the IMU'S relative weakness. Namangani was unable to command mass support despite the relative unpopularity of the Karimov regime. He was unable to arm all of his potential fighters and so relied on unarmed cells to assist his cause. This weakness was confirmed by his reliance on external support to maintain his cause. The Taliban provided the bases and weaponry. Osama bin Laden, Islamist front organizations, Pakistani madrassahs and Saudi benefactors provided the crucial funding. Drug-trafficking, over which the Taliban asserted their control, also provided substantial financial backing. Moreover, the campaign of 1999, far from unseating the Uzbek or Kyrgyz governments, was a token gesture of futile violence. The killings achieved nothing. They did not advance the cause of jihad or the caliphate at all. Like terrorism the world over, such tactics confirm its lack of mass support and military power or, to put it more simply, the utter weakness of the movement.

Despite his links with the Taliban, Namangani's forward base of operations was still the Sanguor Training Camp in the Tavildara Valley.12 This narrow gorge provided ample cover against air strikes and could be protected from a series of defiles. As it was close to the Afghan border, funds and some logistics could be brought in, but food supplies were also procured from the local Tajik population. It was not that they were necessarily sympathetic to the cause, but they needed the revenue from selling their produce. That said, Namangani cultivated his reputation among local Tajiks, marrying a Tajik woman who had been widowed during the civil war. This achieved the dual purpose of cementing Uzbek - Tajik links forthe IMU and marking N amangani out as a pious Muslim: it is especially blessed to marry, and therefore support, a woman who has been widowed in a jihad. Namangani also extended his contacts to create a network of sympathizers into the north ofTajikistan. To improve relations with the authorities, he promised not to interfere in Tajikistan's politics, arguing that he was only opposed to the Uzbek and Kyrgyz governments. Although he appeared to be conciliatory, this was a necessary tactical judgment since he feared the Tajik government might move against him. In the event, it IMU'S thinking. The kidnappers demanded another ransom and release of several thousand Uzbeks held in Karimov's prisons. they did not have it all their own way. The Kyrgyz army located engaged the IMU detachments. As a major offensive got under way to sweep them southwards back into Tajikistan, negotiators manage persuade the  IMU to release the Japanese captives and sevi more Kyrgyz.

The Uzbeks also participated in the counterattack. Uzbek aircraft made strafing runs into Tajikistan as far south as Garm and Tavild resulting in civilian casualties. Further air raids in southern Kyrgyzs in Batken and ash, led to the deaths of twelve Kyrgyz farmers. Tl attacks suggest that the Uzbeks wished to tackle the IMU at a dist;] to prevent further bomb attacks against their capital. They also re the eagerness of the Uzbek government to project their power by their own borders.14 However, although the deaths of Tajik and KYJ civilians suggested a disproportionate response, it is now clear that some cases, impoverished Kyrgyz and Tajik herders joined the IMU for cash. In Batken, unemployment stood at between 60 and 90 per c Agriculture ruined by salination, shortages of electricity, the closed factories and a fundamental shortage of food, decent standard living and prospects served to drive some young men towards ranks of the insurgents. However, it is also true that the majoril Kyrgyz fled the IMU onslaught, fearful that the mountains would become a war zone, as has happened in Tajikistan during the civil Overwhelmed by the flood of IDPS, the government struggled to cope with the crisis.

The IMU campaign was short-lived, and, with winter threatening to close the passes, their units were withdrawn to the Tavildara Valley reorganize. Understandably, the Tajik government was keen to move the IMU out of its territory. IRP leaders who knew or had fought with Namangani during the civil war were therefore sent to persuaded IMU to continue their withdrawal into Afghanistan. Consequently helicopter fleet of Russian aircraft, 600 fighters and their families, extracted from Tavildara to Afghanistan, where they received a warm welcome from the Taliban.15 Clearly Rahmonov was eager to a restarting the civil war, which would, undoubtedly, have mean" Taliban making attacks across the Amu Daria and would possibly have brought down his government. The Tavildara base was also a strong position and would have meant considerable military and financial effort at a time when the government was still insecure. Nevertheless, while Tajikistan may have purchased some time, the IMU was also now in a position to recruit more men, refit and retrain for a fresh campaign the following summer. A new base was opened for them at Mazar by the Taliban in return for an assurance that the IMU would agree to attack the forces of Ahmed Shah Masoud.

The military results of the IMU'S campaign were disappointing, but they were in a position to make their campaigns more effective, particularly using drugs revenue. Their attacks on the Kyrgyz had not resulted in any political changes, but timing their assault with the convening of the Shanghai Five meeting (the forerunner of the sea; China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Russia) had attracted international attention. They had exposed the deficiencies of counterterrorism and counter-insurgency techniques in the Kyrgyz army, even if the amount of physical damage they could inflict was limited. To make improvements, the IMU'S co-operation with the Taliban and AlQaeda increased over the winter of 1999. There was detailed planning of the next campaign, the securing of arms and ammunition, and the acquisition of more funds, much derived from drug-trafficking. The UN estimated that drug production increased in Afghanistan between 1998 and 199916, from 2,750 tons to more than 5,000 tons. This production was taxed, but the IMU was making more money by charging for its smuggling across the borders of Central Asia. Namangani exploited the contacts he had built up in the years after the Tajik Civil War, and, employing his links through the Taliban, he used Chechens to expand the smuggling operations. Conscious of the potential damage being done to Afghans, the Taliban decided to ban poppy cultivation in 2000, but, even with a drought, Afghanistan still produced 3,400 tons. Namangani's operations were unaffected. He and his associates had stockpiled 240 tons at Mazar and Kunduz, and some of this was ferried across into Tajikistan, where it could be refined. This is supported by the fact that raw khanka opium was sometimes intercepted by Russian and Tajik border guards. Inside Tajikistan, some of the drugs were in the world, the IMU and other groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda may use the ideology of jihadism to justify their cause, but their operations depend on the techniques of organized crime. The response of the Central Asian states to the IMU'S campaign of 1999 was weakened by divisions. The Uzbeks accused the Tajiks and Kyrgyz of doing too little to tackle the IMU, but they refused any meaningful co-operation. Instead, they increased their own border security, even to the extent of sowing minefields along their frontiers. Crossborder trade was severely affected, as was agriculture, particularly where grazing and irrigation channels had crossed political boundaries. Despite an increase in border posts and personnel, drugsmuggling and terrorist infiltration continued.

In July 2000, the IMU had returned to the Tavildara Valley and begun the process of infiltrating across the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Their strategy was twofold: first, to launch attacks against the security forces of the two republics, and second, to smuggle weapons and ammunition to their sleepers so as to orchestrate a terror campaign from within Uzbekistan. If co-ordinated, this would result in the IMU being able to maintain a year-round resistance rather than relying on a summer campaign alone. By August, they had initiated a series of surprise attacks with units between 100 and 200 strong in southern Kyrgyzstan and in Uzbekistan's Sukhandarya Province. Once again, Sukh and Vorukh provided useful staging posts to attack targets in the Ferghana Valley.

The foray into south-eastern Uzbekistan was a new departure but one that was ultimately doomed. The 170 insurgents initially contented themselves with the establishment of a small base before making an attack on local Uzbek forces. They executed an ambush against a newly trained Special Forces unit with particular effectiveness, killing ten men. However, they were pursued with vigour and were eventually besieged in their base. After a month of bombardment and sniping, the position was stormed and only a handful escaped alive. No prisoners were taken. The incident revealed that, as with many jihadist fighters, there can sometimes be a preference for a sacrificial stand as opposed to classic guerrilla tactics. Once pinned to a position, they were vulnerable to the heavy weapons of regular Uzbek forces and were destroyed. It was clear from this episode and other aspects of the 2000 campaign that the IMU killed its own wounded rather than letting them fall into the hands of the Uzbek and Kyrgyz governments, to whom they might have 'talked'.

The treatment of local people by the Uzbek authorities reveals that hearts and minds are not high on their list of priorities. Uzbek herders from Sukhandarya Province alerted the security forces to the presence of the IMU unit, but the authorities were slow to react and accused the herders of selling produce to the insurgents. Destroying their flocks, they forcibly moved the locals into camps where the conditions were so bad that some died of the cold. A few who spoke out about their plight were beaten up, and, the following year, 73 were arrested on the charge of subversion or assisting terrorists.19

One IMU unit had been dispatched deep inside Uzbekistan to attack the holiday resort of Bostanlyk some 100 kilometres north of Tashkent. When fifteen insurgents attacked and killed four soldiers and took four hostages, there was panic. No fewer than 4,000 civilians were evacuated. After pitched battles with the insurgents, the Uzbek security forces eventually wiped them out. Once again, this incident revealed some limitations in the Uzbeks' ability to offer security to the population, but it also indicated that even the most daring raids by the IMU were vulnerable if they fixed themselves to a location. There is no evidence that they made any attempt to win the support of the people, and yet, as Mao posited so succinctly, any guerrilla war is absolutely dependent upon insurgents being able to move among a supportive civilian population as 'fish through water'. For all the dedication of the jihadists, this fundamental failure to understand the practice of successful guerrilla warfare condemned them to failure.

Other operations in 2000 revealed further weaknesses. In Kyrgyzstan's Batken Province, inept IMU attacks on army outposts left 25 insurgents dead and inflicted only 24 casualties. The inexperienced if enthusiastic volunteers were then hunted by us-trained Special Forces. On 11 August, one IMU team managed to ambush a Kyrgyz army patrol and killed 22 men (although it is possible that the wounded were murdered). The following day they kidnapped members of a climbing expedition, including four Americans and a Kyrgyz soldier. While being pursued by Kyrgyz Special Forces, the kidnappers murdered the soldier but gradually released their captives. Intercepted by 130 troops, the IMU detachment tried to fight it out: six of them were killed and two captured. One of the prisoners confessed to being a rapist on the run from the police, while the other claimed that he had only enlisted for the money. Of the survivors who fled to the Tajik border, their leader, Sabir, was shot by Tajik border guards. Among the IMU equipment that was captured was a video of the insurgent group. Many of the volunteers, some of whom now lay dead, were very young, and they were clearly drawn from across Central Asia. The fact that some were Chechens may help to explain the tactics, but the profile of the fighters in the video also suggests that simply being 'a fighter' may be as important as any ideological justifications. For all the rhetoric, jihadist recruits reflect common patterns of enlistment around the world.

As the winter of 2000 approached, Namangani's men once again pulled out of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, having lost at least 150 of their fighters. The IMU was no nearer its goal of toppling the governments or of creating their beloved caliphate. If they congratulated themselves for defying the republics as they pulled back into Afghanistan for a second time, then they failed to acknowledge that the campaign of 2000 had merely hardened the resolve o{ the governments. Indeed, the IMU operations had only succeeded in convincing other powers of the urgent need to assist the Uzbeks and Kyrgyz against terrorism. The us, for example, which had no particular affection for Karimov's regime, felt compelled to condemn the IMU as a terrorist organization because of the kidnapping incident, and it stepped up its assistance programme. The Clinton administration had already taken military action against AI-Qaeda in Sudan and Afghanistan, and the IMU'S links with bin Laden reinforced its concerns. Russia, Turkey, France and China all sent counter-insurgency equipment; China donated night-vision equipment and sniper rifles. Russia offered Uzbekistan $30,000,000 in weapons, including 30 armored personnel carriers, Mi-8 helicopters and radios. Russia also convened a joint strategy meeting although this was marred by suspicions between the Central Asian governments.

In the winter of 2000, the IMU continued to co-operate with the Taliban and integrate its efforts with Al-Qaeda. Reinforced with more recruits, the organization rose to a strength of 2,000 men including Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Arabs, Afghans and Uighurs from Xinjiang. Six hundred fighters were deployed in support of the Taliban, which itself was in the region of fifteen thousand strong. A third of these were 'foreign', including 4,000 from Pakistan and 600 members of bin Laden's 055 Arab Brigade. Backed with heavy artillery, armour and aircraft, and assisted by Pakistan's ISI and Special Services Group, the Taliban made a concerted effort to defeat Masoud decisively in the north-east of Afghanistan. Taloqan, Masoud's headquarters, had fallen on 5 September after a siege lasting one month, and his resistance was now pushed into the very fringes of the country. The Taliban and their foreign allies were delighted: eager to prove that the strength of their Muslim brotherhood was irresistible, they convinced themselves that no force could stand in their way. Some argued that, having beaten the Soviet Union and the United Front (or Northern Alliance, as it was known in the West) in the Afghan Civil War, and having humiliated America in Somalia, they could proceed to defeat Russia in Chechnya and destroy the us. The seeds of 9/n were thus already being sown. This contact with extremists in Afghanistan further radicalized the IMU: some Pakistanis and Arabs, eager to gain more jibadist credentials, offered to serve alongside Namangani's men, but many members of Sipah-i-Sabah and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi who joined up had reputations for atrocities and massacres that would do the IMU'S cause no good at all.

As Al-Qaeda gained greater publicity for its global terrorism, there was a corresponding growth of interest in the plight of the anti-Taliban resistance. Tajikistan was particularly alarmed by Masoud's defeat. The us and Russia imposed sanctions against any supply of arms to the Taliban in January 2001, and there was growing pressure on Mullah Omar to surrender bin Laden. China demanded that its ally Pakistan should insist that Uighur fighters be expelled from radical madrassahs and from the Taliban. Thus prompted by Islamabad, the Taliban simply moved its Uighur contingents over to the 'independent' IMU. Equally, when Musharraff insisted that the members of Sipah-i-Sabah and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi be extradited for crimes and murders inside Pakistan, the Taliban moved them to the IMU too. A Russian demand to have Chechens handed over was dealt with in the same way.

Intelligence reports that Namangani had returned to Tajikistan in November 2000 prompted Uzbek demands for his extradition, and they reinforced the diplomatic pressure by cutting crucial gas supplies in the depths of winter. They also insisted that Tajikistan create a land corridor to Sukh. Meanwhile, mining and wiring of the border areas continued, while Tajik nationals, suspected of terrorist sympathies, were deported, even though they were ethnically Uzbek. The Tajik government responded with some hostility, expressing irritation that Tajik dissidents such as Col. Makhmud Khudoyberdiev (who had led a raid into the country in 1998) remained at large in Uzbekistan. The spat over extraditions was resolved when the Tajik government persuaded Namangani and his fighters to withdraw to Afghanistan for the third time. The Uzbeks nevertheless believed that, not only were the Tajiks actually in league with the IMU (through IRP contacts) but that Russia too was secretly supporting the IMU against the republics. Karimov perhaps did not acknowledge the fragility of the Tajik government and the limits of its authority. Not did he appear to appreciate the strained relations between factions in Tajikistan caused by the presence of the IMU. The use of Russian aircraft was not evidellce of a conspiracy against Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan either. Russian-Tajik border units did not want to engage the IMU or spark an unnecessary conflict with their allies the Taliban. However, Uzbek concerns that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan might be backing the group as a means of gaining greater influence in Central Asia was not so far-fetched. At least, that had been the original intention. The problem for both of these countries was that, not for the first time, they had lost control of their protégés.

In the summer of 2001, the Taliban went on the offensive against Masoud and the IMU resumed their attacks on Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The Batken region of southern Kyrgyzstan bore the brunt American assistance encouraged the IMF to offer its support, having pulled out earlier in the year because of the country's economic crisis. When the American-led Coalition forces swept the Taliban out of power, and the United Front opposition, including Uzbekistan's favored warlord, Dostum, took control of Afghanistan, the Russians and the Uzbeks were relieved. Namangani had chosen to fight alongside the Taliban, hoping, no doubt, to replay the war against the Soviets. But the IMU leader miscalculated the Americans' military power, with apparently fatal results. It is thought he was killed in one of the devastating American air strikes that characterized the three-week conflict.20

For a time, Namangani's movement was clearly defeated. The remnants of the IMU fled, like many other Taliban fighters, into the tribal border areas of Pakistan where they could be sure of support from hard-line Pushtuns. However, Operation Enduring Freedom had scattered the movement and broken down its finance, smuggling, and command-and-control networks. Some of its members ended up in Kashmir (hosted by the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba), others made their way back to Tajikistan (particularly Khushad, Khevaspor and Ayvanj in Gorno-Badakhshan), while the sleeper cells remained in existence in the Ferghana Valley. In late 2001, the IMU was re-titled the IMT in a gesture designed to widen its appeal, demonstrate its solidarity with non-Uzbeks, and clarify its aim to remove the national borders in Central Asia. The movement remained hors de combat until December 2002, when bombs were detonated in the Oberon market of Bishkek. The choice of target suggests that the IMT was not strong enough to penetrate the security of the border or take on the government. Indeed, the relative isolation of the incident illustrated that, despite their desire to keep resistance alive, this was a shadow of their strength in 19992000, when they had launched so many attacks. On 8 May 2003, there was another bomb attack in Kyrgyzstan, this time outside Bakay Bank in the city of Osh. It was thought that the perpetrators were two Uzbeks from the Ferghana Valley.

Since 2003, the Taliban and the IMT have been able to recover some of their strength and organization. In the tribal areas of the North-West Frontier Province, an Islamist coalition, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, governs the area. One of its constituents is the Jamat-i-Ulema Islami, a Deobandi ideological movement that backed the Taliban and the IMT. With detachments still in Kashmir, Afghanistan and eastern Tajikistan, the Pakistan border area represents its most secure haven. Already hard pressed to track down Al-Qaeda and jihadist Pakistani groups, the authorities in Pakistan do not have the resources to devote to locating IMT members as well. Using narcotics contacts built up in the late 1990S, the IMT has been able to re-establish some of its networks. Uzbekistan was subjected to a wave of terrorist attacks in the spring of 2003, including gun battles with Uzbek police. Then, in a new departure, fifteen suicide bombers attacked at several locations around the country. Thirty-three other IMU fighters were killed." In July 2004, the American and Israeli embassies and the Uzbek Prosecutor-General's office in Tashkent were also attacked by suicide bombers. Three guards were killed and nine others wounded. The Uzbek security forces sealed off the capital with roadblocks and vehicle searches, but, in parallel with events in Afghanistan, the advent of suicide bombing was a clear indication that tactics employed elsewhere in the Middle East and promoted by Al-Qaeda had finally been imported to Central Asia. A group calling itself the Islamic Jehad of Uzbekistan claimed responsibility for the attacks, but this may be a front name for the IMT'S foreign personnel or IIF allies. These foreign elements include Chechen fighters, Arabs and Pakistani jihadists from the Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami.

In a predictable statement in September 2006, Yuldeshev announced that the IMT remained strong. He threatened revenge against Russia as well as the Central Asian republics, using the rhetorio usually associated with Al-~eda, but there was a reference to the Andijan shootings of 2005 which involved Uzbek security forces. Yuldeshev claimed the IMT was committed to bringing to an end the oppression of ordinary Muslims, thereby trying to make a specific link between the people of Central Asia and the fighters. Despite the presence of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Central Asian republics still lack the means to combat terrorists, and co-operation between the republics remains limited, although China agreed to assist Tajikistan in training exercises in September 2006. Two Americans have been killed in Afghanistan by the IMT, and kidnapping for ransom is still a favoured tactic. It is also alleged that, now that Iran feels encircled by Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, its intelligence services have been secretly supporting insurgent groups, from Muqtada al-Sadr's Shia militia in southern Iraq to the IMT in eastern Tajikistan. The discovery of Iranian-made explosives and bombs by British forces in Iraq would appear to confirm these suspicions. It may also be true that, having found a common cause in Iraq, the exchange of expertise and a flow of funds and logistics may follow. Nevertheless, the IMT still has a chance to win support from the Uzbek public if the government fails to deliver economic improvements or political concessions. Karimov believes that Hizb ut-Tahrir and other Islamist organizations simply recruit for IMT by indoctrinating young men with their extremist interpretation of Islam. There may be some truth in this fear, but critics of the regime argue that, until the government ceases to suppress or muzzle the voice of the opposition, the situation will not improve.

Central Asia P.1.

Central Asia P.3





1 'Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, 10 December 2006; US Department of State, 'Patterns of Global Terrorism, zooo', Aprilzool; Mark Burgess, 'In the Spotlight: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan', Center for Defense Information, 25 March 2002; Walter Lacquer, No End to War: Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century (New York, Z003), pp. 191-Z.

2 Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven, CT, 2003), P.148, n.16.

3 B. Raman, 'Terrorism in Afghanistan and Central Asia, 24 November 2004.

4 Rashid, Jihad.

5 Burgess, 'In me Spotlight: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’.

6 B. Raman, 'International Terrorism Monitor: Paper no. 22, Jihadi Terrorism in Central Asia: An Update', 1 February 2006.

7 Rashid, Jihad, p. 143.

8 United States Mission to me OSCE, 'Statement on Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief', 28 September 2005.

9 Raman, 'International Terrorism Monitor'.

10 Raman, 'Terrorism in Afghanistan and Central Asia', 24 November 2004.

11 Kadir Alimov, 'Uzbekistan's Foreign Policy: In Search of a Strategy', Eisenhower Institute, 2006; Erich Marquart and Yevgeny Bendersky, 'Uzbekistan's New Foreign Policy Strategy', PINR, 23 November 2005.

13 'Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999: Eurasia Overview', [us] Department of State Publication 10687, 2000.

14 William D. Shingleton and John McConnell, 'From Tamerlane to Terrorism: The Shifting Basis of Uzbek Foreign Policy', Harvard Asia Quarterly, v /1 (2001), http://www.asiaquarterly.com/content/ category /8/32/.

15 Rashid,Jihad.

16 Rashid, Jihad, p.165.

17 Andrew Meier, 'Opium Highway', Time Magazine, 24 February 1997, p. 54.

18 Rashid, Jihad.

19 Ibid., P.169.

20 Mark Burgess, 'In the Spotlight: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan'.

21 Raman, 'Terrorism in Afghanistan and Central Asia’.


For updates click homepage here