Afghan, ISAF troops kill IMU leader in north

During a recent raid in Afghanistan’s northern province of Takhar, Afghan and US troops killed an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader who was involved in suicide operations. The Coalition’s report of his death is the first report in nearly two months to mention the targeting of an IMU or al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan.

The IMU leader, who was identified as Ilhom, was killed along with an associate during a combined Afghan and Coalition raid in Taloqan district in Takhar. Ilhom was killed after he “engaged the security force with fragmentation grenades,” the International Security Assistance Force press release stated.

Ilhom “facilitated the training of suicide bombers for attacks throughout the area” and was responsible for the last year’s Christmas Day suicide attack at a funeral in Taloqan that killed 20 Afghans, including Abdul Mutalib Baig, a member of parliament.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is an al Qaeda-linked terror group that operates primarily in northern and eastern Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is closely allied to the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. In the north, IMU leaders have integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government. [For more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and its activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan.]

A drop in ISAF reports on raids against the IMU and al Qaeda

Today’s report on the death of Ilhom is the first by ISAF to identify the targeting of an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan operative since Dec. 8, when an IMU suicide facilitator was targeted in Chahar Darah district, Kunduz province. The last time an al Qaeda operative was reported to have been targeted was on Nov. 29, 2011. Prior to the Dec. 8 raid, ISAF routinely reported on raids that killed or captured members of the two radical Islamist terror groups.

In answer to a recent inquiry by The Long War Journal to the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command (IJC) requesting an explanation for the lack of reporting on the raids against the two terror groups, IJC said that raids may be occurring even if they are not being reported.

“ISAF continues to conduct combat operations against the spectrum of insurgent forces through-out Afghanistan year-round,” IJC stated. “Lack of perceived specificity within operational press releases should not be misinterpreted as lack of operational rigor against those entities.”

However IJC would not answer The Long War Journal’s inquiries that asked if ISAF forces conducted any unreported operations against al Qaeda or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan from Dec. 9, 2011, to Jan. 28, 2012.

The inquiries were prompted by a Jan. 27 press release by ISAF reporting on a raid that targeted “insurgent suicide bombers” in Chahar Darah district in Kunduz. “The security force detained several suspected suicide bombers during the operation,” the ISAF press release stated.

The Long War Journal had requested information identifying the group to which the “insurgent suicide bombers” belonged. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has a strong presence in the district and is known to run training camps in the province. Al Qaeda also operates in Kunduz.

IJC would not provide the identity of the insurgent group, citing “operational security” restrictions.

“The operation you are questioning has not been completed; therefore, for operational security purposes, no additional information will be released,” IJC stated.

Operational security was cited despite the facts that the press release not only described the date and location of the raid but also noted the detention of several suicide bombers and the seizure of weapons and explosives. Yet in a similar operation – the Dec. 8, 2011 raid in the same district – the name of the terror group was identified even though the suicide facilitator who was targeted was not captured.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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