During an airstrike in the northern Afghan province of Takhar, Coalition special operations forces killed a senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader who recently assassinated two Afghan officials and “multiple insurgents.”
A combined Coalition and Afghan special operations team called in the airstrike after taking fire during a raid in Ishkamish district in Takhar that targeted Mullah Anwar, the senior IMU leader.
“After the strike, the force conducted a follow-on assessment and confirmed the strike had killed multiple insurgents including Anwar,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. Two additional “insurgents” were captured during the raid.
ISAF said that Anwar was “the senior IMU military leader in Burkah district” in neighboring Baghlan province “and was involved in the assassination of the Ishkamish district mayor on Monday.” In addition to killing the Ishkamish district mayor (or district governor), the Aug. 13 IED attack also killed a representative of the Afghan High Peace Council, which is responsible for reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, and three other Afghans, according to Pajhwok Afghan News. The Taliban had claimed credit for the attack.
Background on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and supports operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as plots attacks in Europe. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north. [For more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan.]
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. In September 2010, the IMU took credit for the Sept. 19 ambush that killed 25 Tajik troops, and also threatened to carry out further attacks in the Central Asian country.
The IMU has claimed credit for numerous suicide assaults in Afghanistan, including the May 19, 2010 attack on the US military airbase in Bagram, the Oct. 15, 2011 assault on the Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Panjshir, and the Oct. 29, 2011 suicide attack that targeted an armored bus in Kabul.
The IMU has been a prime target of special operations forces in Afghanistan. So far this year, special operations forces have conducted at least 27 raids against the IMU; in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Faryab, Logar, Helmand, Kunduz, Takhar, and Wardak, or eight of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces; according to International Security Assistance Force press releases compiled by The Long War Journal. The last raid took place on Aug. 13, in the Chahar Darah district in Kunduz province. An IMU commander who directed IED attacks in Kunduz as well as distributed weapons to insurgents in the north was captured during the raid.
This spring, ISAF killed the two previous IMU leaders for Afghanistan, in raids just a few weeks apart in Faryab province. [See LWJ report, Special operations forces kill newly appointed IMU leader for Afghanistan, for more information.]
Additionally, the US has targeted the IMU’s leaders and network in Pakistan’s tribal areas. US drones have killed the last two emirs of the IMU. On Aug. 4, the IMU announced that its emir, Abu Usman Adil, was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, and named Usman Ghazi as the new leader of the al Qaeda-linked terror group. Adil succeeded Tahir Yuldashev, the co-founder of the IMU, who was killed in a drone strike in September 2009.
Adil is credited with increasing the IMU’s profile in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the death of Yuldashev, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Whereas Yuldashev had been content with confining the group’s operations largely to Pakistan’s tribal areas, Adil pushed to expand operations in northern and eastern Afghanistan, as well is in the Central Asian republics.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.