Tahir Yuldashev, dead and alive, from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan website Furqun.
A website run by the central Asian terror group known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan announced the death of their leader, Tahir Yuldashev, and posted an image of his corpse.
Furqun, an Uzbek-language website run by the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, put up two images of Yuldahsev, who was described as “Shaheed Mohammed Tahir,” and said he was “slain.” ‘Shaheed’ is a term used by Islamist groups to describer martyrs who are killed in combat. The IMU indicated that Yuldashev was killed in a US Predator airstrike last year.
Yuldashev was first reported to have been killed in a strike by an unmanned US aircraft in the town of Kanigoram on Aug. 27, 2009. The strike took place in a known stronghold of the Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Nazir. Eight Taliban and Uzbek fighters were reported killed in the attack.
A controversy over Yuldashev’s death soon emerged, with the IMU and top Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud denying Yuldashev’s death. But IMU fighters, including a man who identified himself as Yuldashev’s bodyguard, as well as a Pakistani Taliban leader and Pakistan’s intelligence service insisted he was killed in the South Waziristan strike.
The bodyguard said Yuldashev had been replaced by “an ethnic Tatar by name of Abdurakhman.” An Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader known as Zubair ibn Abdurakhman is said to serve as the group’s spokesman as well as a leader of a faction of the group. Another report indicated that a leader named Usman Jan has taken control of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Background on the The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Pakistan and Afghanistan
Yuldashev took command of the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan after Juma Namangani was killed by anti-Taliban fighters from the Northern Alliance during the US invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001. Namangani and Yuldashev had co-founded the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 1998. The group moved operations to the Afghan-Pakistani border after being hounded by Uzbek intelligence.
Yuldashev is said to have been one of the senior commanders battling US forces during Operation Anaconda in the Shahi-Kot Valley in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia in March 2002.
The IMU is closely allied with al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Yuldashev sat on al Qaeda’s top council, the Shura Majlis. Yuldashev’s fighters shelter in North and South Waziristan; there are an estimated 2,500 to 4,000 IMU fighters based in Pakistan’s tribal regions and in Afghanistan.
The IMU is strong in northern Afghanistan, where, over the past two years, the insurgency has been revitalized. The Taliban and the IMU have carried out attacks against NATO’s new supply corridor from Tajikistan through the northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan. The Taliban, with the help of the IMU, control several districts in Kunduz and Baghlan. As many as 80 al Qaeda-linked IMU fighters, including Uzbeks and Chechens, are operating in areas southwest of Kunduz City.
The IMU has also extended its violent reach into Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to the north. Under the command of Mullah Abdullah, a force of 300 IMU and Taliban fighters attacked a police station in the town of Tavil-Dara in Tajikistan on July 9, 2009. 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.
ISAF announced that it killed an IMU sub-commander in Kunduz during an airstrike on Aug. 13, 2010, after he conducted an attack on a police station in Imam Sahib district. The sub-commander, Abu Baqir, was described as a memebr of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Baqir was behind two recent suicide attacks in Kunduz, a US military intellignece official told The Long War Journal. ISAF said he was sheltering four suicide bombers who were preparing to strike in Kunduz City.
• Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader thought killed in August strike in South Waziristan, The Long War Journal
• Tahir Yuldashev confirmed killed in US strike in South Waziristan, The Long War Journal
• US strike kills ‘dual-hatted’ al Qaeda and Taliban commander in northern Afghanistan, The Long War Journal
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.