During a raid in northern Afghanistan yesterday, a combined Coalition and Afghan special operations force killed the top commander for Afghan operations of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Makhdum Nusrat, described by the International Security Assistance Force as “the senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader in Afghanistan,” was killed yesterday in Faryab’s Shirin Tagab district during a raid by an “Afghan Special Unit” and Coalition forces, ISAF stated in a press release.
Nusrat and “several additional IMU insurgents” were killed and two “insurgents” were captured after they opened fire on the combined Afghan and Coalition force. Security forces also seized “a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, multiple rockets, several AK-47s and a number of grenades.”
ISAF described Nusrat as “the highest-ranking IMU insurgent operating in the country.” He was involved in numerous attacks “throughout the northern provinces for the last eight months.” Additionally he was “plotting the assassination of an Afghan Parliament member in Kabul.”
ISAF described the IMU as “a terrorist organization closely linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
“It conducts insurgent attacks in the northern region of Afghanistan among other countries in Central Asia,” ISAF continued.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda, and supports operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as plots attacks in Europe [for more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan].
The northern Afghan provinces of Baghlan, Faryab, Kunduz, Sar-i-Pul, and Takhar are known strongholds of the IMU. In early 2011, the International Security Assistance Force noted the location of suicide camps in both Sar-i-Pul and Samangan. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north.
ISAF and Afghan forces captured the IMU’s previous top commander in Afghanistan during a raid in Kunduz province in April 2011. He served as “a key conduit between the senior IMU leadership in Pakistan and senior Taliban leadership in Afghanistan,” and aided in suicide, IED, and other attacks by the IMU in the north. He was freed from a Pakistani jail in 2010 and immediately returned to lead forces in Afghanistan [see LWJ report, ISAF captures Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s top commander for Afghanistan].
ISAF has targeted the IMU in four other raids in Afghanistan this year. Nusrat appears to have been the target of the last raid, on March 17, which also took place in Faryab’s Shirin Tagab district, as well as a raid in Badhakshah province in September 2011 [see LWJ report, Special operations forces hunt IMU’s top commander in Afghan northeast].
On March 8, security forces captured two Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders during a raid in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan. The commanders were involved in suicide attacks in northern Afghanistan, including one that resulted in
the death of a member of parliament.
On Feb. 3, ISAF captured “a Taliban-appointed deputy and head of the insurgent group’s military commission in Badghis province” during a raid in southern Helmand province. ISAF said he “represented both the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan groups and was responsible for coordinating insurgent activities in Badghis and Faryab province.”
On Jan. 29, ISAF and Afghan forces killed Ilhom, an IMU commander who “facilitated the training of suicide bombers for attacks” in Takhar province and was responsible for last year’s Christmas Day suicide attack at a funeral in Taloqan that killed 20 Afghans, including Abdul Mutalib Baig, a member of parliament.
The IMU has maintained a strong presence in Afghanistan despite persistent ISAF and Afghan raids against top leaders and operatives. IMU leaders and operatives are often the targets of US Predator and Reaper drone strikes in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.