The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has announced its new leader, just one day after confirming the death of Tahir Yuldashev, the al Qaeda-linked terror group’s co-founder and longtime emir.
Abu Usman Adil announced that he is the new leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, in a statement released on the terror group’s website, Furqon. In the online statement, Usman said Yuldashev was killed as a result of the Aug. 27, 2009, US Predator airstrike in South Waziristan. Prior to assuming control of the IMU, Abu Usman served for years as Yuldashev’s deputy.
Usman also called for his followers to wage jihad in the southern portion of Kyrgyzstan.
The IMU finally announced Yuldashev’s death yesterday, after denying his death for nearly one year. A photograph of Yuldashev’s corpse was displayed alongside an old image of the former IMU leader. A statement described Yuldashev as “Shaheed Mohammed Tahir,” and indicated that Yuldashev was “slain.”
A month after the strike last year that targeted Yuldashev as he met with South Waziristan tribal leader Mullah Nazir, a controversy over Yuldashev’s reported death emerged. While the IMU officially denied that Yuldashev had been killed, members of the terror group, including one of Yuldashev’s bodyguards, claimed that the emir had indeed been killed. Both Abu Usman and an IMU spokesman known as Zubair ibn Abdurakhman were said to have replaced Yuldashev.
Confusion over the status of Yuldashev and the leadership of the IMU abounded within the terror group in the aftermath of the Aug. 27, 2009, airstrike, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Yuldashev was not killed during or immediately after the Aug. 27 airstrike, but died much later of complications from wounds suffered in the strike. Top IMU leaders were jockeying for control of the group while Yuldashev attempted to recover from his injuries.
The IMU is closely allied with al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Yuldashev was close to Osama bin Laden and was also a member of al Qaeda’s top council, the Shura Majlis.
In the late 1990s, the IMU moved from Uzbekistan to the Afghan-Pakistani border regions. IMU fighters shelter in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan as well as in Afghanistan’s northern and eastern provinces. There are an estimated 2,500 to 4,000 IMU fighters based in Pakistan’s tribal regions and in Afghanistan.
For more information on Yuldashev and the IMU, see LWJ report, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan confirms leader Tahir Yuldashev killed.
• 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
• Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan confirms leader Tahir Yuldashev killed, 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.