Coalition and Afghan special operations teams captured an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator in the same district where 38 US and Afghan troops, including SEALs, were killed when their helicopter was shot down in August 2011.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator, who has not been named, was captured by a combined special operations team today during a raid in the Sayyidabad district in Wardak province. One “insurgent” was killed and two others were captured in the raid, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
“The facilitator, along with senior IMU leaders in the area, was planning future large-scale attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Kabul, Wardak and Logar districts,” ISAF stated.
The captured facilitator is the second operative linked to the IMU that has been targeted in the area in the past four days. On April 23, special operations forces attempted to capture a senior Haqqani Network facilitator during a raid in the Baraki Barak district of neighboring Logar province. The Haqqani facilitator was supporting attacks in and around Kabul and “has ties to the Pakistan-based leaders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” ISAF stated.
Last summer, Sayyidabad was the scene of several high-profile attacks by the Taliban and allied groups. The Taliban have been in control of the Tangi Valley, which runs through Sayyidabad, since the withdrawal of US forces from Combat Outpost Tangi in the spring of 2011. US troops turned over the base to the Afghan Army, which immediately abandoned it. The Taliban later released a videotape that showed hundreds of fighters and senior Taliban leaders massing at the abandoned base and conducting a tour.
The Taliban shot down a US Army Chinook helicopter in Sayyidabad on Aug. 6. Thirty-eight US and Afghan troops, including 17 US Navy SEALS from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, were killed in the crash.
And on Sept. 10, 2011, the Taliban detonated a massive suicide bomb outside of Combat Outpost Sayyidabad, killing four Afghans and wounding more than 100 people, including 77 US soldiers. US commanders later blamed the attack on the Haqqani Network, a powerful al Qaeda subgroup.
Al Qaeda is also known to maintain a presence in Wardak province. The presence of terror cells has been detected in the districts of Maidan Shah, Sayyidabad, and Tarnek Wa Jaldak, or three of the province’s eight districts. On Nov. 18, 2011, special operations forces killed Mujib Rahman Mayar, an Afghan member of al Qaeda. Mayar “trained insurgents and worked as a courier” for the terror group, ISAF stated after his death. “He delivered messages and transported money for the al Qaeda network.”
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and supports operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as plots attacks in Europe. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north [for more information on the IMU, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan]. The IMU and the Islamic Jihad Group, an IMU splinter faction, are known to operate in the southeastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Wardak, Ghazni, and Zabul. Both groups are allied with the Haqqani Network.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has been linked to major suicide attacks in and around Kabul in recent years: the May 19, 2010 suicide assault on Bagram Air Base; the October 2011 suicide attack that targeted an armored bus in Kabul; and the October 2011 suicide assault on a Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Panjshir. On April 18 this year, ISAF targeted an IMU leader in Baghlan who “is responsible for multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in northern Afghanistan” and “is also suspected in plotting bombings and suicide attacks in Kabul.”
ISAF has stepped up its targeting of the IMU’s leadership cadre over the past several months. Coalition and Afghan commandos have targeted top IMU leaders and associates in 15 raids in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Faryab, Kunduz, Takhar, Logar, and Wardak provinces since Jan. 29. Nine of those raids took place this month and four occurred in March. During those raids, special operations forces have killed the IMU’s past two commanders for Afghanistan, and killed one senior facilitator and captured two others.