Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)




Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a group of militias from Uzbekistan and thus can clearly understand where their name came from. The group can be dated back to 1998 and has been an active cell group since then. The group had actually been in existence before 1998, but before then they were not really organized and consisted of a couple of different groups each having a different name. The group was formed to overthrow the government that was in power then as the government was said to be pro-communist and was headed by President Karimov (Abdullaev, 2011). The group was formed by Thir Yuldashev who an Islamic Ideologue in collaboration with Juma Namangani was who was a former Soviet trooper. They felt it was time to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state governed by sharia laws.

In 1999, the group conducted several attacks in Tashkent which was the capital of Uzbekistan as a way to destabilize the government and assassinate president Karimov. Karimov responded by becoming tougher on Muslim individuals especially to the conservant Muslims that stayed in Fergana valley. This, however, had adverse effects. More people joined the IMU and became stronger. From then they were able to conduct successful attacks. These raids impacted central Asia, and there was international pressure to expel IMU from their already established base. Russians flew Namangani and his soldiers to Afghanistan, Karimov saw this as a betrayal as he though the Russians were helping IMU. The group created a close affiliation with Taliban and Al-Qaida which are also notorious terrorist groups known for carrying out attacks especially in the US (Zen, 2016). While in Afghanistan and with permission from Taliban to operate, they set up their offices and training camps and started recruiting people. By 200, IMU had the number of people, equipment ranging from sniper rifles to night-vision goggles. Transport had also been improved as bin-laden ad provided them with helicopters.

With the right amount of people and fighters, Namangani conducted an attack in Batken in Kyrgyzstan and some northern parts of Tashkent. They also kidnaped 4 US mountain climbers and held them hostage in exchange for ransom from the US government. This angered the US government and was declared as a foreign terrorist organization. Ties between IMU and Taliban became even stronger that Namangani was said to be the deputy defense minister of Taliban Government. They even provided soldiers to Taliban during the campaign on Masoud.

After the 911 attacks in the US that are considered the deadliest attacks, the US government decided to invade Afghanistan and try to quash the terrorist cells especially Al-Qaida and Taliban. The IMU training camps were largely destroyed and most of their soldiers killed. Namangani, their leader was also killed during this period by a US airstrike. They retreated to tribal areas of Pakistan and laid low for a while. They, however, continued recruitment to try and build the organization up again. The Uzbek ethnic religion was mostly the members if the group but when their recruitment base expanded to Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia other ethnic groups joined (Carlisle, 1995). Their leaders now even came from other groups such as Kyrgyz who was a military commander in Abbas Mansur, Abu Zar al-Burmi who was a Pakistani. Other commanders included Usman Ghazi, Abu Usman Adil, and Tahir Yuldashev. In 2010, Abu Usman Adil became the new leader following the death of Tahir Yuldashev. Adil was however killed in 2012 in a drone strike by the US military. He was replaced by his deputy Usman Ganzi who was killed in 2015, their current leader is not yet known.

There are several systems that were used by the Arabs and Muslims in recruitment of youth to join IMU. They used to offer dirhams to individuals who attended Friday prayers in the mosque. It is in the mosque that they taught radical ideas. These radical ideas included telling the youth of how they will be rewarded with nine virgins if they killed non-Muslims or participated in the holy war. They also kept blaming the US government for their troubles such as the death of children and women due to the airstrikes. These preaching were enough to stir hatred among the youths, and most were ready to dedicate their lives to the holy war. The mosque is the most notorious location where the recruitment of youths take place. They use the religion to justify their acts, and many fall victims to this. They believe that if they die fighting this war, they will be heavily rewarded. Their media has also been another form of recruitment through the spread of the propaganda. It is known as Jundallah Studio and aside from airing their content they produced audio, newsletters to help draw more people to the group (Moore, 2007).

Just like all other terrorist groups, IMU needs to money to carry out their day to day operations. Their common source is the money paid by residents in the territories they control which can be considered as the tax we pay our governments. They also engage in criminal activities such as smuggling of drugs and selling them to get money (Wayback, 2012). They have also obtained funding from well-established groups such as Al-Qaida and Taliban. Irfan Demirtas was arrested due to the links that he was aiding the IMU in raising funds through fundraising. He was an Irish/US citizen who used his western influence to source money for the group

There are several attacks that IMU have taken acknowledgment of (The Investigative Project on Terrorism, 2010). In 2004, they were accused of the Tashkent bombing leaving 47 people dead and a dozen injured. In 2006, they attacked supporters of Tajik’s President Imomali. In 2011, they were blamed for the attack in Toloqan. In 2012, they took responsibility for the bombing of Peshawar Airport, 2014; they attacked Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan killing 39 people. They have not been involved in most international attacks although it is said that they helped Al-Qaida conduct the 9/11 attack on the US soil. They have played a great role in attacks in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.

In a nutshell, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan played a major role in attacks especially locally and just helped groups like al-Qaida to conduct international attacks. They were able to run the organization smoothly and recruit quite some individuals into the group. With the right amount of personnel and armor, they were a feared group for quite a while. The US invasion of Afghanistan may have marked its slow extinction and eventually it’s extinction. With the death of their leaders and the leadership wrangles, the group became divided, and the attack from Taliban was almost thee final blow. The group may be regrouping again under new leadership and is trying to take control of various regions in Uzbekistan although with the war by US and Uzbekistan government against them it may be hard.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Abdullaev, E. (2011, July 16). Islam Sng. Retrieved from Islam Sng:

Carlisle, D. (1995). Geopolitics and Ethnic Problrs of Uzbekistan and it’s Neighbouts. In Muslim Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies, 71-103.

Moore, C. (2007). Combating Terrorism in Russia and Uzbekistan. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 1-19.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism. (2010, March 4). The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Retrieved from The Investigative Project on Terrorism:

Wayback, M. (2012, June 18). Eurasia Critic. Retrieved from Eurasia Critic:

Zenn, J. (2016). The IMU is extinct: what next for Central Asia’s jihadis? The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst.

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