The 21st Century Phenomenon



* Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – I.M.U was a militant Islamic group formed in 1998 by former Soviet paratrooper Juma Namangani, who participated in the war in Afghanistan in the 80s’ in the rank of the Russian army and was influenced by the Afghani Mujahidins (Holly Warriors), and Tohir Yuldashev – both ethnic Uzbeks from the Fergana Valley. The objective of IMU was to overthrow President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and to create an Islamic state under Shariaa (Islamic Law).

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – IMU operated mainly from a base in neighbor Tajikistan, allied itself to the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the years 1999-2000 committed series of raids into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In 1999 a series of explosions in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent were orchestrated in an unsuccessful attempt on Islam Karimov’s life, which left at least 15 dead and 100 wounded. Islam Karimov placed the blame on radical Wahhabism and the IMU in particular.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – IMU was, for a while, the major Islamic operational force in the republics of the former Soviet Union in Central Asia. It is estimated that in 2000 I.M.U was approximately 2000 strong. In the spring of 2000 they contributed around 600 fighters to the Talibani offensive against the Northern Alliance led by Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Intelligence sources in the West and Central Asia claimed that by summer 2000, I.M.U was equipped by Osama Bin Laden with a pair of heavy transport helicopters, with sniper rifles and night-vision goggles. In 08/2000, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – IMU was designated by USA as a terror organization.   

IMU fought along the Taliban during operation Absolute Justice in 12/2001. USA army in cooperation with Central Asian Republics almost destroyed IMU. Juma Namangani was killed and Tohir Yuldashev, with remnants of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – IMU formed in 2002 a new group of his own – the Islamic Jihad Union -IJU. Another Islamic militant group in central Asia – the “Islamic Party of Turkestan” – emerged also from the remnants of I.M.U.

Former IMU operatives under a variety of ephemeral organizations, using deferent names took major part in the 2004 attacks in Uzbekistan. Today (06/2008) IMU and its satellites lost power and became a small peripheral group with little impact on the political and social life in Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

After IMU leader Tohir Yuldashev was killed in Pakistan, on 08/27/2009, he was replaces by Usmon Odil as the new IMU leader.

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