In a recent night operation, Coalition and Afghan security forces captured a commander from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who was involved in the deadly attack in Takhar province on May 28. That attack killed two senior police commanders and wounded the governor and a German general who commanded forces in the north.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commander, who was not named, and “several associates” were captured by the combined special operations forces during “a night-time security operation” on Monday in the district of Mazar-i-Sharif in nearby Balkh province, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
ISAF described the commander as “an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator” who “assisted” with the May 28 attack at the governor’s compound in Takhar province. Killed in the attack were General Dawood Dawood, the top commander for the Afghan National Police in the north; Mawlawi Shah Jahan, the chief of police for Takhar province; the governor’s secretary; an Afghan bodyguard, and two German soldiers. Major General Markus Kneip, who is ISAF’s top leader for Regional Command North, and the governor of Takhar were also wounded. Initial reports indicated the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, but an Afghan official later said a bomb planted in the hallway had caused the casualties.
Prior to his capture, the IMU commander was updating the terror group’s leadership based in Pakistan on the outcome of the attack, according to ISAF.
“Recent reporting indicated he had been in direct contact with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leadership in Pakistan, providing them with specific reports on the damage effects of the May 28 blast,” the ISAF statement said.
The attack was the latest in a string of high-profile bombings, terror assaults, and assassinations by the Taliban and allied groups.
The Taliban and the IMU have integrated operations in the north
Top leaders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the northern provinces. And in fact, ISAF has targeted several senior IMU leaders who also served in the Taliban’s shadow government. On April 20, ISAF captured the top IMU leader in Afghanistan during a raid in the Khanabad district in Kunduz.
Operating in conjunction, Taliban and the IMU have expanded their presence throughout northern Afghanistan, and have established training camps in the region. ISAF has identified the presence of camps in Sar-i-Pul and Samangan provinces.
The IMU has also established camps in Kunduz province, a Taliban commander from Baghlan named Mustafa recently told the Asia Times. The Taliban commander said that jihadis from Central Asia, including “Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Russia,” make up a significant portion of the fighters in the the Afghan north and that they are setting their sights on the neighboring country of Uzbekistan.
“I can tell you that there is an active connection between the Central Asian command and the Taliban in northern Afghanistan and they often join us, but how they connect, this is beyond my level,” Mustafa told Asia Times. “Our superior commanders are in touch with their counterparts in Central Asia and if somebody arrives in Afghanistan or goes to Central Asia from Afghanistan, it is arranged at a senior leadership level.”
The IMU in Pakistan
The IMU’s leadership cadre is based in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, and operates primarily along the Afghan-Pakistani border and in northern Afghanistan. According to one estimate, more than 3,000 Uzbeks and other Central Asian fighters are sheltering in North Waziristan.
The US ramped up airstrikes against the terror groups in North Waziristan between September 2010 and January 2011. Many of the strikes targeted cells run by the Islamic Jihad Group, an IMU offshoot, which were plotting to conduct Mumbai-styled terror assaults in Europe. A strike on Sept. 8, 2010 killed an IJG commander known as Qureshi, who specialized in training Germans to conduct attacks in their home country.
In South Waziristan, the IMU’s former leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in a US Predator airstrike in September 2009. Yuldashev sat on al Qaeda’s top council, the Shura Majlis. He has been replaced by Abu Usman Adil.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters often serve as bodyguards for top Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The IMU fights alongside the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has stepped up attacks in Central Asian countries as well.
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