Saturday, October 3, 2009

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Leader Believed Killed in August Drone Attack

Via The Long War Journal -

Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan indicate that the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was killed during a US airstrike in South Waziristan in late August.

Tahir Yuldashev, emir of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is said to have been killed in a strike by an unmanned US aircraft in the town of Kanigoram on Aug. 27, 2009. The strike took place in a known stronghold of the Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Nazir.

Eight Taliban fighters and Uzbek fighters were reported killed in the attack, but no senior leader was initially reported killed.

The first report of Yuldashev's death emerged on Sept. 28, when a man called Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek service for Radio Liberty, identified himself as a bodyguard for Yuldashev, and said the leader had died from wounds one day after the strike. According to the caller, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was trying to hide Yuldashev's death.

The caller also claimed that Yuldashev had been replaced by "an ethnic Tatar by name of Abdurakhman." An Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader known as Zubair ibn Abdurakhman is said to serve as the group’s spokesman as well as a leader of a faction of the group.

Anonymous Pakistani officials are now saying that Yuldashev did indeed die in the Aug. 27 strike. "The man has kicked the bucket," a senior Pakistani government official told Dawn. "He is dead beyond doubt," another Pakistani official said.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not confirm that Yuldashev was killed. "We are aware of the reports and investigating, but do not have evidence he was killed at this time," one senior military intelligence official said.

Pakistani intelligence has claimed Yuldashev has been killed in the past. Most recently, Yuldashev and 'pro-government' Taliban leader Mullah Nazir were reported killed in a strike on Oct. 31, 2008. Both later resurfaced.

Yuldashev's death, if confirmed, would mean the US has killed five senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders since the Aug. 5 strike that killed Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Also thought killed are: Ilyas Kashmiri, the operations commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami and the operations chief of Brigade 313; Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; and Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior military commander for al Qaeda who sits on al Qaeda's military shura.


The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is a militant Islamist group formed in 1998 by former Soviet paratrooper Juma Namangani, and the Islamic ideologue Tohir Yuldashev - both ethnic Uzbeks from the Fergana Valley. Its objective was to overthrow President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and to create an Islamic state under Sharia.

In September 2002, an aide to Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, the Foreign Minister of the Taliban, claimed he had been sent prior to 9/11 to warn the U.S. government of an impending attack and to persuade them to take military action against Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan. The aide claimed advance knowledge of the attack came from Yuldashev, which if true would indicate a high degree of cooperation between Al-Qaeda and the IMU.

The United States believes bin Laden supplied most of the funding for setting up the IMU, with some Uzbek and Tajik officials saying the al Qaeda leader encouraged Yuldeshev and Namangani to organize such a the group in the first place, which declared a jihad against the Uzbek government and sought to establish an Islamic state in Uzbekistan.

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