Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s top leader for the northern province of Kunduz, a major safe haven for the terror group. Another IMU who maintained ties with the Taliban was also killed during the raid.
The raid took place today in the Qal’ah-ye Zal district in Kunduz province. The combined special operations team killed an IMU leader and detained five operatives, including the unnamed leader, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
The “senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader for Kunduz province” who was captured is thought to have “directed IMU insurgent activity for Kunduz province, including the financing, manning, and provision of weapons and equipment for attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces,” ISAF stated. The IMU leader also “provided training and direction” that allowed other IMU operatives to conduct IED attacks in the province.
ISAF later identified the IMU leader who was killed as Qari Yahya, and said he “was directly responsible for facilitating and conducting improvised explosive device attacks throughout Kunduz, in addition to maintaining communication and logistic ties with senior IMU and Taliban leaders.”
Kunduz province is a known haven for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and allied terror groups. The presence of IMU and al Qaeda cells has been detected in all seven of Kunduz’s districts: Aliabad, Archi, Chahar Darah, Imam Sahib, Khanabad, Kunduz, and Qal’ah-ye Zal; according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
The IMU has been a prime target of special operations forces in Afghanistan. So far this year, special operations forces have conducted at least 29 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.
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.]
Special operations forces have conducted 11 raids against the IMU in Kunduz province alone so far this year. In one raid, on July 7, two IMU leaders who served as explosives experts and specialized in making suicide and improvised explosive devices were captured in a raid in Kunduz district. The captured IMU leaders are Afghans of Uzbek ethnicity and are linked to the group’s top leadership.
In the last reported raid, on Sept. 8, special operations forces targeted an IMU facilitator who is suspected providing money, ammunition, and explosives to support insurgent activity throughout the region was targeted during an operation in Kunduz district. Several suspected insurgents were detained during the operation, but it is unclear if the target was among them.
Other recent raids have netted IMU operatives. On July 28, special operations forces captured an IMU explosives expert along with “numerous insurgents” in Archi in Kunduz. And on July 24, special operations forces killed Khadim, an IMU “explosives expert responsible for recruiting and training insurgents for suicide attacks.”
Background on the IMU
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 reports, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan, and IMU announces death of emir, names new leader.]
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters often serve as bodyguards for top Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The IMU also fights alongside the Taliban in Pakistan , 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.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.