The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and its Impact on Tajikistan

During the 1992-1997 civil war in Tajikistan, foreign volunteers from primarily Uzbekistan played a prominent role in the fighting on the side of the UTO. Subsequently forming the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), these volunteer jihadists continued fighting and formed a destabilizing factor in Tajikistan’s relationship with neighbouring countries. The IMU in time migrated into first Afghanistan, then – following the Taliban government’s defeat – into Pakistan. However, the IMU also maintained a base of sympathizers and supporters in Tajikistan. In recent years, some of them have made their continued presence felt. Jihadist fighters of various origins have for several years passed through, or infiltrated, Tajikistan. Some have been on their way from Afghanistan to other countries, notably Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, while others, including a number from the North Caucasus, appear to have found safe havens in Tajikistan. In September 2010, Tajikistan witnessed its presumably first suicide bombing. In November 2011, the IMU released a list of 87 members who had been killed over the past year. Among them, the majority came from Afghanistan – but twenty came from Central Asia. Of these twenty, ten were from Tajikistan, as compared to six from Kyrgyzstan and only four from Uzbekistan. In January 2012, no less than 34 alleged local members of the IMU were put on trial in Tajikistan. This was not an isolated event. Smaller numbers of alleged IMU members had already been arrested from time to time. In February 2012, an alleged IMU member was extradited from Pakistan to Tajikistan. Which are the implications of the IMU’s remaining support base in Tajikistan? Is the IMU developing safe havens in Tajikistan in case the group will have to flee Pakistan? Are there links between the IMU in Tajikistan and other jihadist groups elsewhere?

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