A top ideologue for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan urged Pakistanis living in Waziristan to continue to shelter jihadists, and said the Pakistani state has done the most damage to terror groups operating in the region.
Abu Dher al Barmi, an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan cleric and spokesman who is also known as Abu Dher Azzam, delivered the sermon on Sept. 30, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which provided a translation. The sermon was videotaped at a mosque in Pakistan and distributed by Ummat Studios to jihadist websites on Nov. 14.
He said that the “the mujahideen of Islam emigrated to the land of Waziristan after the fall of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and sheltered with the Pakistani people, but are now being punished by both the US and Pakistan for doing so.
“Today, the helpless and poor people of Waziristan have helped to defeat the so-called superpower…” he said. “For harboring the mujahideen, they are being killed and targeted by the [US] drones, by the apostate Pakistan Army, by the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and tribal militias, but people of Waziristan are facing these hardships with unprecedented courage and faith.”
Al Barmi said that Pakistan’s government is deceiving its people into believing the US is preparing to invade Pakistan.
“They are telling us that America intends to invade Pakistan, but this has already happened with the consent of the Pakistani government. Who is carrying out these drone strikes? Who is providing the Americans ground intelligence? In fact, America invaded Pakistan ten years ago, and that’s when we started jihad against America, against the occupiers, against the system in Pakistan, against the armed forces of Pakistan, and this jihad will continue, Allah willing.”
Al Barmi said the IMU would “never forget the sacrifices of our hosts” and the “Red Mosque’s martyrs,” a reference to the jihadists who fought at the Lal Masjid is Islamabad in July 2007. “We will never let go to waste the blood of Kashmiri mujahideen and Afghan mujahideen.”
“Our objective is to enforce Allah’s system in Allah’s universe,” he said.
He said the IMU would fight for the imposition of Sharia law in Pakistan and the destruction of the “brutal end of Pakistani security and secret services,” and avenge “the killing of martyrs.”
Background on the IMU in Pakistan and Afghanistan
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, which were plotting to conduct Mumbai-styled terror assaults in Europe. A Sept. 8 strike 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. Recently, the IUM has claimed credit for suicide assaults in Panjshir and Parwan provinces in Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, ISAF identified several locations of safe havens and training camps in the north for the Taliban and the allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Both terror groups maintain a strong presence in the northern Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Samangan, Sar-i-Pul, and Takhar, and have established suicide and military training camps in the north over the past several years. As the two groups expand their presence in the region, top leaders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the northern provinces.
ISAF has identified the presence of suicide camps in Sar-i-Pul and Samangan provinces. On March 22, a special operations team captured an IMU commander who ran camps in Samangan. In addition, several other commanders who aid in suicide attacks have been targeted in the north.
ISAF and Afghan forces captured the IMU’s senior leader in Afghanistan during a raid in Kunduz province in April. He served as “a key conduit between the senior IMU leadership in Pakistan and senior Taliban leadership in Afghanistan,” and aided in suicide, IED, and other attacks by the IMU in the north. He was freed from a Pakistani jail in 2010 and immediately returned to lead forces in Afghanistan [see LWJ report, ISAF captures Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s top commander for Afghanistan].
The IMU has established camps in Kunduz province, a Taliban commander from Baghlan named Mustafa told the Asia Times earlier this year. 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 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 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Group, an IMU splinter faction, are also known to operate in the southeastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, and Zabul. The two groups work with the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network [see LWJ report, ISAF detains senior Haqqani Network leader linked to the IMU].
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.