Members of a Tajik military unit that turned against the government a decade ago have have joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and al Qaeda.
An unknown number of fighters who were loyal to rebel leader Mahmud Khudoyberdiyev joined the regional and global terror groups and have been fighting the Tajik government, the deputy chief of the Tajik National Security Committee said at a regional forum held earlier this month.
Khudoyberdiyev was a colonel in the Defense Ministry and led a brigade of troops. He led an unsuccessful uprising in 1997 and took control of a northern city in 1998 before fleeing to neighboring Uzbekistan.
It is “unclear” if Khudoyberdiyev himself has joined al Qaeda, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
Tajikistan has become a battleground over the past year, as the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have tried to disrupt to NATO’s new supply line into northern Afghanistan. NATO sought the new supply route after the Taliban began to effectively interdict supply columns passing through Pakistan’s Taliban insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province.
On July 9, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, under the command of Mullah Abdullah, sent a force of 300 fighters into the town of Tavil-Dara in Tajikistan and attacked a police station. Abdullah is thought to have crossed from Kunduz into Tajikistan several weeks before the attack. Eleven days later, the IMU attacked a remote military checkpoint in Tajikistan near the Afghan border; five IMU fighters were killed during the assault.
Al Qaeda absorbs former military members
Al Qaeda has been successful in absorbing officers and enlisted members from Middle Eastern and South and Central Asian militaries. Significant numbers of Egyptians, Pakistanis, and Iraqis make up the leadership of al Qaeda’s military.
Three of the senior-most leaders of al Qaeda’s military arm have served in the military of their native countries.
Saif al Adel, who is the leader of al Qaeda’s military committee as well as the group’s chief strategist and planner, served as a colonel in the Egyptian Special Forces before defecting to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which eventually merged with al Qaeda. A significant number of Egyptian officers and enlisted also now serve as senior al Qaeda leaders.
Ilyas Kashmiri served as a commando in Pakistan’s Special Services Group. Kashmiri now serves as the operational chief of Brigade 313 and the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, an al Qaeda-linked terror group that operates in Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Kashmiri was recently listed as the fourth-most-wanted terrorist by Pakistan’s Interior Ministry. He is considered by US intelligence to be one of al Qaeda’s most dangerous commanders. Numerous Pakistani officers and enlisted are known to bolster various Pakistani jihadi groups.
Abd al Hadi Al Iraqi served as a major in Saddam Hussein’s Army before joining al Qaeda. Al Hadi led al Qaeda’s paramilitary forces in Pakistan’s tribal areas until he was captured while moving to Iraq to take control of operations in late 2006. In addition, several other Iraqi intelligence and Army officers have fled to Pakistan’s tribal areas and have been integrated into al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, or Lashkkar al Zil.
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