Country Report on Terrorism 2015 - Chapter 6 - Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

aka IMU

Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 25, 2000, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) seeks to overthrow the Uzbek government and establish an Islamist state. For most of the past decade, however, the group has recruited members from other Central Asian states and Europe and has focused its fighting against international forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The IMU has had a decade-long relationship with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In August 2015, IMU leader Usman Ghazi announced the group’s allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. IMU’s leadership is based in Pakistan’s tribal areas and operates primarily along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in northern Afghanistan. Top IMU leaders have integrated themselves into the Taliban’s shadow government in Afghanistan’s northern provinces and have established training camps in the region. IMU members may have also traveled to Syria to fight with violent extremist groups.

Activities: Since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, the IMU has predominantly been focused on attacks against international forces in Afghanistan. In late 2009, NATO forces reported an increase in IMU-affiliated foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan. In 2010, IMU claimed responsibility for the September 19 ambush that killed 25 Tajik troops in Tajikistan. On October 15, 2011, IMU claimed responsibility for a suicide assault on a U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Panjshir Province, Afghanistan, that killed two Afghan civilians and wounded two security guards. On June 8, 2014, IMU claimed responsibility for participating in an attack on Karachi’s international airport that resulted in the deaths of at least 39 people.

Throughout 2015, the IMU actively threatened the Afghan government, specifically in the northern part of the country. In April, the group released a video showing IMU members beheading an individual they claimed to be an Afghan soldier and threatened to behead Hazara (a historically persecuted ethnic group in Afghanistan that follows Shia Islam) hostages, in supposed retaliation for the Afghan security forces capture of several female members of IMU.

Also in 2015, Uzbek refugee Fazliddin Kurbanov was convicted and sentenced by a U.S. federal court to 25 years in prison for planning a bomb attack in Idaho. Kurbanov had been in contact with members of IMU online, seeking advice on how to make explosives and formulate attack plans. He discussed attacking U.S. military bases, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Strength: 200 to 300 members

Location/Area of Operation: Central Asia, Iran, and South Asia

Funding and External Aid: The IMU receives support from a large Uzbek diaspora, terrorist organizations, and donors from Europe, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.