During a raid today in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, Coalition and Afghan special operations teams captured two Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders who are involved in suicide attacks.
The two Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders, who were not named, were captured along with an “insurgent” during a raid in the Faizabad district. Special operations forces also seized “a suicide vest, explosives, blasting caps, and detonation cord” during the raid, the International Security assistance Force stated in a press release announcing the captures.
ISAF said that one leader is “responsible for suicide bombings against Afghan government senior officials throughout Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces.” The other leader is “a bomb-making expert who helped plan suicide attacks.”
The two leaders are likely connected to a network of IMU and Taliban operatives responsible for high-profile suicide attacks and assassinations in the Afghan north over the past year. The network is based in northern Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan. [For more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, its links to al Qaeda, and its activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan.]
Coalition and Afghan forces have targeted this network over the past several months. On Feb. 7, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) captured three Taliban fighters who were part of an assassination cell that was led by a Peshawar-based commander known as Qari Abdul Rahim. They were captured by NDS personnel in Parwan province while attempting to leave the country for Pakistan. The NDS said that Rahim’s network was “helping other terrorist networks in Kunduz, Badakhshan and parts of Baghlan province.”
And on Jan. 29, Afghan and Coalition troops killed an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader known as Ilhom during a raid in Takhar. The International Security Assistance Force said that Ilhom “facilitated the training of suicide bombers for attacks throughout the area” and was responsible for 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 NDS also said that Rahim’s cell was involved in the assassination of Baig.
In addition to killing Baig, this IMU and Taliban network has been implicated in two other high-profile targeted killings: the assassination of the top Afghan police commander in the north, General Daud Daud, and his former Shura-e-Nazar deputy, Shah Jahan Noori, on May, 28 2011; and the murder of Kunduz Governor Mohammad Omar in Tahkar on Oct. 8, 2010.
Badakhshan has become safe haven for the IMU and al Qaeda over the past several years. The US has conducted two other raids against the IMU in the northeastern province since August 2010. On Aug. 26, 2010, Afghan commandos and ISAF forces discovered a weapons cache in the village of Nawci, which is “suspected of being a safe haven for Taliban drug and weapon smugglers operating in the area and an infiltration route for foreign fighters operating throughout the northeast provinces of Afghanistan.” ISAF often uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe al Qaeda.
On Sept. 14, 2011, special operations teams targeted the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s top leader in the north during a raid in the Kismim district in Badakhshan. Twenty-one fighters were killed and nine more were captured. Two “group commanders” named Mullah Abadullah and Mullah Shir Mohammad were among those captured.
Additionally, in the neighboring province of Takhar, on Jan. 25, 2011, ISAF and Afghan forces killed Nurullah Bai, a senior IMU leader in the Afghan north. Bai “coordinated the district Taliban leader’s movements, distributes funds, facilitates ammunition deliveries, and was involved in a drug trafficking network between Badakhshan province and Tajikistan,” ISAF stated. He also specialized in IED attacks against Afghan government officials in the north and “maintained close connections with the Taliban shadow governor for Takhar province, al Qaeda facilitators, and other IMU insurgents in the area.”