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Jihad in Uzbekistan Suicide bombings spread to Uzbekistan

Police and military clashed with suspected terrorists, including three suicide bombers, 22 people were killed in a third day of violence started on 29 March 2004 in the Uzbek capital during a sweep to round up Islamic militants. According to Associated Press, attacks continued on 30 March as well centered in the northern Yalangach neighborhood, near the official home of President Islam Karimov.

The suicide bombings, carried out 30 minutes apart at a bus stop and the Children’s World store in Tashkent’s Old City, killed three police and a young child, in addition to the two female attackers, according to Uzbek officials. This was the first suicide bombings ever reported in the five Central Asian nations once ruled by the Soviet Union, which also include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Police stopped a small red car driven by 4 women and two alleged suicide female terrorists jumped out and detonated explosive-laden belts, killing themselves and three police officers and injuring five more policemen.
Uzbekistan’s president Karimov, has blamed the violence on Islamic extremists, and said several arrests had been made, stating that backing for the attacks might have come from a banned radical group that has never before been linked to terrorist acts — Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the Party of Liberation.

The Uzbek arena after 9/11

After the 11 September 2001 attacks, particular interest is the emergence of three new Islamic fundamentalist groups-the Islamic Renaissance Party in Tajikistan; the pan-Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, which has become the most popular and widespread underground movement in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan; and the most violent of these groups, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which wages a terrorist campaign against the Uzbekistan government-and the risks that all these groups pose for Central Asia and the world. Uzbekistan has taken a pro-Western stance that has especially angered these groups:

Uzbekistan was among the first countries to offer practical anti-terrorist support to the United States in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Indeed, it became the first of Central Asia’s former Soviet republics to permit U.S. troops and aircraft on its territory. Around 1, 500 U.S. Air Force and Special Operations personnel have been deployed to the country’s Khanabad Air Base, which lies just 90 miles from the Afghan border. Such assistance as the Uzbek President Islam Karimov has extended has been motivated less by altruism than by the fact that America represents a powerful new ally in his ongoing counterinsurgency campaign against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). [In the Spotlight: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)]

The American authorities believe 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 group in the first place, which declared a jihad against the Uzbek government and sought to establish an Islamic state in Uzbekistan.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)

“While the United States and others in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization confront the challenges of building a stable democracy within Afghanistan, other governments worry about potential disturbances from groups that fought alongside Afghanistan’s Taliban militia. Uzbekistan still faces a threat from the insurrectionist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).”

[Imu Movements May Press Tajikistan To Forefront Of Security Concerns
Davron Vali: 4/18/02.]


IMU is a Pan-Islamic terrorist organization. The group originally focused on overthrowing the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and replacing it with an Islamic state in Uzbekistan. When changing its name to the Islamic Party of Turkestan in June 2001, the group expanded its original goal of establishing an Islamic state in Uzbekistan to the creation of an Islamic state in all of Central Asia, which would include all of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and China’s Xinxiang province [1,2]


The IMU is made up of militant Islamist extremists mostly from Uzbekistan, but includes other Central Asian nationalities and ethnic groups as well. The group has mainly conducted small-scale armed attacks, including car bombings and taking hostages, and it has limited incursions into Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. While the group’s early attacks focused on Uzbek targets, recent operations have been closer to the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, indicating the IMU’s ambitions of igniting a broader conflict. The IMU has also conducted attacks more openly, withdrawing to villages and disguising themselves as locals rather than retreating to the mountains following an attack [3]


Tahir Yuldosh: Yuldosh was elected the leader of Uzbekistan’s Adolat (Justice) party and was named by the Uzbek government as one of the conspirators behind the attempted assassination of Uzbekistan’s President Karimov in February 1999. In May 1999, Yuldosh obtained the Taliban’s permission to establish a military training camp for the IMU in northern Afghanistan, where he is still believed to be hiding [4]

Juma Namangani: Namangani fought with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) in the Tajik Civil War (1992-1997). In August 1999, he led a group of 800 militants into southern Kyrgyzstan, where they captured villages and hostages and threatened to attack Uzbekistan.[4] In August 2000, IMU rebels led by Namangani made incursions into southern Uzbekistan, mountainous areas just outside of Tashkent, and several areas in southern Kyrgyzstan. In July 2001, rebels attempted to capture a television relay station in Kyrgyzstan that transmits programs to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Namangani is also currently believed to be training Islamic militants in northern Afghanistan. Sources indicate that he may have been appointed a “deputy” of Osama bin Laden sometime in 2001 his present location is unknown. [5]

In November 2000, Yuldosh and Namangani were both sentenced to death in absence for bombings that were conducted in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in February 1999.

Group Ties

The IMU is part of a network of and receives support from other fundamentalist Islamist groups throughout Central and South Asia. Russia, China, and the United States believe that the Taliban aided the group, at least by harboring the militants and providing training camps. The group shares many common goals with Hizb-ut- Tahrir, an underground Islamist party active in Central Asia; Hizb-ut- Tahrir is not considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State [6]. The IMU has also reportedly received financing from Osama bin Laden and trained in Afghanistan at camps associated with Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. [7]

The Islamic Liberation Party- (Hizb- ut-Tahrir al-Islami)

In 1952 and 53, a group of Palestinians led by Sheikh Taqi al-Din al-Nabahani founded the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami). The party opened branches in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and later on in Germany, the UK and France. In the 1980s, it began operating in Turkey, India, and Pakistan, and in the 1990s widened its activity to Central Asia (mainly Uzbekistan) and the South Caucasus (primarily Dagestan). Although the party has not been involved in the popular uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, it has a long history of terrorist and subversive activity elsewhere.
In 1974, Dr. Salih Sirriyyah, a Palestinian member of the party led the Islamist group that carried out the first terrorist operation—against the military academy in Cairo—in the era of the Islamic revival in Egypt.

Another former member and one of the founders of the Islamic Liberation Party, Sheikh As`ad Bayyoud al-Tamimi was the spiritual leader of one of the fractions of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was quiet influential in the Gulf States.

According to the Uzbek authorities, the Islamic Liberation Party was behind the attempt to assassinate Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president, in February 1999.

The party has been involved in political subversion and terrorism against the Jordanian regime since the 1950s, and was since been outlawed in Jordan and many of it members arrested. Early this year, there was another wave of arrests among its members and supporters in Jordan and Syria. More recently, in February 2000, members of the party were involved in violent clashes with the Lebanese Armed Forces in northern Lebanon.

The Method of Hizb- ut-Tahrir

The following is taken from excerpts from the platform of Hiz-ut-Tahrir as published on the web:

The method adopted by Hizb ut-Tahrir to convey the da’wah is the Islamic Law derived from the shareah of the Messenger of Allah. Muslims nowadays live in Dar al-Kufr(The Disbelievers), because they are governed with laws other than the revelation of Allah, so their land resembles Mecca where the Messenger of Allah was first sent as a Messenger. Therefore, it is necessary to take the Messenger of Allah’s shareah as an example in conveying the da’wah.
By studying the life of the Messenger of Allah in Mecca until he had managed to establish the Islamic State in Medina, it is evident that he went through clearly defined stages, in each of which he used to perform specific clear actions. So the Hizb-ut Tahrir took from that the method of action, the stages of its action and the deeds, which it has to perform during these stages in accordance with the deeds that the Messenger of Allah performed during the stages of his work.

Based on these elements, Hizb-ut-Tahrir defined its method of work into three stages:
The First Stage: The stage of culturing to produce people who believe in the idea and the method of the Party, so that they form the Party group.

The Second Stage: The stage of interaction with the Islamic Ummah, to let the Ummah embrace and carry Islam, so that the Ummah takes it up as its issue, and thus works to establish it in the affairs of life.
The Third Stage: The stage of establishing government, implementing Islam generally and comprehensively, and carrying it as a message to the world [8]

The Current Jihad in Uzbekistan

Central Asia in general and Uzbekistan within this region are on the “front line” of current Jihad preformed by factions of IMU. Uzbekistan has suffered from recurring incidents of terrorism aimed at establishing an Islamic state in the country. In February 1999, terrorists apparently targeting Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov set off at least 6 car-bomb explosions in Tashkent. Reports from Tashkent said that 13 to 15 people were killed (including two attackers) and 150 others were wounded. President Karimov reacted by outlawed all Islamist groups in Uzbekistan and instigating harsh measures and fierce suppression. Hundreds of suspects were arrested and jailed and many mosques went under strict state control.

President Karimov and other senior Uzbek officials have frequently warned that Wahhabi Islamist radicals are amassing greater operational capability under the auspices of the Afghan Taliban, and that their ultimate goal is to destabilize neighboring states as well. Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan all share a common enemy in the Afghan Wahhabi militants.

In early August 2000, while the Mujahideen were in the process of preparation and transferring supplies and men to strategic locations in Uzbekistan, the Uzbekistan Government attacked them. Attacks took place in the Fargana Valley, an area regarded as the center of radical Islam, lasting several days. The Islamists attacks were predominantly on the Uzbekistan Government airplanes, helicopters, artillery and fighting vehicles. The authorities arrested hundreds as suspects involved in terror attacks and affiliation with Radical Islamic Groups.

Prior to11 September 2001 attacks in the U.S, it seems that there was radicalization of Hizb-ut-Tahrir the so-called the political and the intellectual struggle. This has transformed to a struggle against the Kufr (The West) “colonialist states” which have domination and influence on the Islamic countries mainly in Central Asia and the Caucasus, on territories of the former Soviet Union. The challenge against colonialism in all its intellectual, political, economic and military forms, involves exposing its plans, and revealing its conspiracies in order to deliver the Ummah from its control and to liberate it from any effect of its influence. [9]
According to Islamic publications a struggle that should be launched against the rulers in the Arab and Muslim countries, by exposing them, taking them to task, acting to change them whenever they denied the rights of the Ummah or neglected to perform their duty towards her, or ignore its affairs, and whenever they disagreed with the rules of Islam, and acting also to remove their regimes so as to establish the Islamic rule in its place.

“The fact that the group does not use material power to defend itself against the “rulers” is of no relevance to the subject of Jihad, because Jihad has to continue till the Day of Judgment. So whenever the disbelieving enemies attack an Islamic country it becomes compulsory on its Muslim citizens to repel the enemy. The members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in that country are a part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as it is upon other Muslims, in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and repel them. Whenever there is a Muslim Emir who declares jihad to enhance the Word of Allah and mobilizes the people to do that, the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir will respond in their capacity as Muslims in any country where the general call to arms will be proclaimed.” []

The goals of the current Jihad in Uzbekistan as published on Islamic Websites are “to defend Muslim blood, property and honor firstly, and then to remove the oppressive Zionist regime of Islam Karimov (The President), replacing it with a Shreah Government” [10]. This radical Islamic perception merges with the Global Jihad ideology published by Osama Bin Laden and his associates, purports to be a religious ruling, or fatwa, against the “Crusaders and Jews”. The Mujahideen have made it clear: “We are not fighting Muslims and are not fighting civilians. The President (of Uzbekistan) is a Zionist Jew and his army is communists who know what they are doing. They are not just obeying orders under pressure, but actively taking part in oppressing their ‘own’ people, the Uzbek Muslims.”

This battle is clearly one of Islam versus Kufr (disbelief), and justice versus tyranny. Actually, it is a battle of Islamic forces in Uzbekistan against a coalition of disbelieving nations backing Karimov.” [11]

The Ongoing Counter Terrorism Campaign

Uzbekistan has fought a continuous battle against the Islamic Movement, which aims at establishing an Islamic state in the country. Uzbekistan, like most Central Asian countries is over 85% Muslim. The group’s members are thought to receive training and arms from neighboring Afghanistan.

The Uzbek government claims that Afghanistan is a center of international terrorism, religious extremism and worldwide drug trafficking, and that developments there could spiral out of control and threaten neighboring countries. Uzbekistan has suffered from recurring incidents of terrorism aimed at establishing an Islamic state in the country. In July 2001, President Karimov attended as an observer a summit meeting of the “Shanghai Five”–China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The primary focus of the meeting was the danger of Islamist terrorists striking across the borders from Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has also sought assistance from Russia in countering the threat of Islamist extremism.

On September 2001 the United States added the Uzbek Islamic movement to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. U.S. officials say that there is ample evidence that the group is connected with Osama bin Laden, wanted in the United States for terrorism. This move is in keeping with the U.S. effort to isolate international terrorist groups and supervise financial contributions to them, in particular organizations connected with bin Laden. The U.S. Congressional Research Service reported that the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement is part of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

Within the framework of the Global War against terrorism led by the U.S, Uzbekistan faces an ongoing challenges in regard to the International Terrorism threats posed by the Radical Islamic Groups affiliated to Ben Laden’s fled operatives in parts of the Uzbek soil.

During the anti-terrorism campaign, a large number of the IMU apparently decided to avoid combat. Some analysts suspect that many militants found refuge in Tajikistan, where the IMU reportedly maintained training and supply bases. Experts also suggest IMU sympathizers in the Uzbek Ferghana Valley could be providing shelter and supplies to fighters arriving from Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan authorities are concerned about Islamic radicals, especially those affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Some regional analysts say the IMU is now regrouping after suffering substantial loses during the US-led offensive against terrorism in Afghanistan. US intelligence sources have estimated that the IMU is capable of recruiting and training a multinational force of up to 5,000 operatives within a year. The rapid expansion of opium and heroin trafficking out of Afghanistan indicates that Islamic radicals will have access to funds to pay and equip new recruits.

Uzbekistan’s future Counter Terrorism Objectives Moderate Islam

The military campaign against Afghanistan is only the initial foray in a long, hard—sometimes-frustrating—counter-terrorism struggle. It would be a major mistake to target only Osama bin Laden and his organization; Islamic radicals all over the world and in Uzbekistan constitute a real and immediate danger to human civilization, and not only to that of the West. Uzbekistan faces a real and imminent threat from its own radical Islamist groups, no less than from bin Ladin’s al-Qaeda network. The same ideology that motivates bin Laden also fuels other Islamic terrorist organizations, such as Hizballah, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, IMU and Hizb-ut-Tahrir — all of which share the same radical Islamic ideology, the establishment of the Khilafah, or “Allah”. The Jihad, according to his belief, was the vehicle that would establish the Khilafah (Islamic Rule) over the whole world. Yet, there is another kind of Islam, moderate, compaction and popular.

In the city of Bukhara (500 kilometers or 300 miles west of Tashkent), the center of the Sufi Naqshbandi order in Central Asia, the Uzbek authorities are not opposing the spread of the Naqshbandi order and even support it. They are using Sufism as a distinctive counterweight to radical Islam groups within the IMU and the international Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the unification of Muslims throughout the world into a single Khilafah (Islamic Rule) over the whole world. Sufism is a moderate mystical branch of Islam, rooted in the attempt to reach God through personal experience free of political aspirations.


“Intelligence is the key to every successful counter-terror operation. On a tactical level, intelligence is fully integrated in any counter-terror activity. The interface between the operational force and its tactical intelligence part is in most cases a matter of highly professional teamwork.”[Eric Herren, ICT,]

Enhanced cooperation between intelligence agencies in the immediate neighboring countries in central Asia, Arab countries in the Middle East and the U.S coincided with developing intelligence capabilities in gathering, assessment and operations.
Monitoring the da’wah activities in specific communities and foreign Islamic clerics with connections to radical groups in Arab countries and the Middle East. A close touch with financial support flowing through Islamic charity founds motivated by radical ideology (See in the Palestinian case the” Union For Good” and its dozens affiliated charity found world wide) [12]. If Hizb-ut-Tahrir is on the track of a real path towards radicalization, it should be on the top priority of the intelligence efforts not only in Uzbekistan. Arab and western intelligence services as well as Israel should take into their consideration this threat.

“Narcobusiness”- Drugs Trafficking

Uzbekistan is located along the ancient trade route of the famous “Silk Road”. According to Uzbek officials, gunmen of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) currently control channels for trafficking drugs from Afghanistan to Central Asian countries. Drug smuggling was used to finance the group that, in 1998, became known as the IMU. This connection with drug trafficking has continued, and the organization reportedly handles 70 percent of the heroin and opium traffic through Central Asia.
Gunmen led by the IMU’s Namangani control the northern section of the drug traffic from Afghanistan. Apart from being drug traffickers, they also sell drugs in Kirghizia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The main task of the international terrorists is to keep the drug traffic going, as the drug business has been and remains the main source of finance for international terrorism.

In 1999 and 2000, the Kirghiz army conducted lengthy military operations against the gunmen of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as they had invaded southern Kirghizia from Tajikistan.

Involvement of terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and criminal activity of Islamist groups is widespread in Chechnya and the Caucasus, as it was in Bosnia, Albania and Kossovo. But, it would seem that this is a result of the political and economic culture in those regions, and connected to nationalist groups that carry out a struggle more nationalist than Islamic in nature.
Uzbekistan should be committed to its primary goal of targeting and arresting the most significant drug traffickers. It is vital to continue working with law enforcement partners in other countries, to improve cooperative efforts against international drug smuggling. The test of success will come when the drug lords and the connection to terrorism will be stopped and arrested, tried and convicted, and sentenced.


Uzbekistan is deeply concerned of the near future scenario of non-conventional terrorism taking Ben Laden’s interest as was discovered in Afghanistan, with a very high concern.
Osama Bin Laden has made no secret of his ambition to join the nuclear club — he has even proclaimed it a “religious duty” for Muslim states to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to attack the West. But intelligence officials believe that the best he has managed to achieve, thus far, is a limited membership of that club, in the form of radioactive material that could be dispersed using conventional explosives — the so-called “dirty bomb.”

Awareness and education in counter-terrorism

While it is the task of the international law enforcement to thwart terrorism at its source and intercept future terror attacks, it is acknowledged that this is a difficult task, with no guarantee of complete success. And yet, while it may not be possible to eradicate terrorism, we can lessen its effectiveness. It is up to governments and communities affected by terrorism to minimize the success of terrorists in achieving their aims, by not allowing themselves to be pawns in the terrorists’ game.

Education drives public opinion, which in turn drives national policy. Proper public education and public awareness—in conjunction with multiple levels of counter-terrorism policy, strategy and tactics—plays a major role in helping a country maintain the integrity, conviction and wisdom needed in order not to be swayed by the threats of terror. While all experts agree that terrorism is psychological warfare—and that its effectiveness is dependent upon the moral and the psychological damage it causes— national institutions have to develop and implement educational programs to counter the psychological impact of terrorism.


Foreign Affairs, November/December 1999.
Http://, 30 August 2001.