Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a militant Islamist group formed in 1998 by the Islamic ideologue Tahir Yuldashev, and former Soviet paratrooper Juma Namangani—both ethnic Uzbeks from the Fergana Valley. Its original objective was to overthrow President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and to create an Islamic state under Sharia; however, in subsequent years, it reinvented itself as an ally of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It also became a strong supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Operating out of bases in Tajikistan and Taliban-controlled areas of northern Afghanistan, the IMU launched a series of raids into southern Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000. The IMU suffered heavy casualties in 2001–2002 during the American-led invasion of Afghanistan. Namangani was killed, while Yuldeshev and many of the IMU’s remaining fighters escaped with remnants of the Taliban to Waziristan, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Since then, the IMU has focused on fighting Pakistani forces in the Tribal Areas, and NATO and Afghan forces in northern Afghanistan.
On 30 September 2009, a man claiming to be a bodyguard of Tahir Yuldashev reported that Yuldashev had been killed in a US missile airstrike that occurred shortly after the death of Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. The next day, Pakistan and US officials confirmed this report. Almost a year later, the IMU website confirmed that Yuldashev had been killed on 27 August 2009 by a US Predator drone strike in South Waziristan, and described him as a Shaheed, or martyr.
On 17 August 2010, the IMU announced that Yuldashev’s long-serving deputy, Abu Usman Adil, had been appointed the group’s new leader. In his first statement, Adil called on his followers to wage jihad in the southern portion of Kyrgyzstan, in the wake of ethnic violence against the Uzbek minority. Adil was killed in an April 2012 US drone strike in Pakistan. In August 2012 the group announced that Adil’s deputy, Usman Ghazi, was their new leader.
The IMU is alleged by the magazine Eurasia Critic to be involved in organized criminal activities such as controlling and facilitating drug smuggling. The IMU is alleged by the United States of America to receive funding from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Campaign of violence:
The Government of Uzbekistan accused the IMU of being involved in the 2004 Tashkent bombings, which left 47 people dead, however an IMU splinter group called the Islamic Jihad Union later claimed responsibility.
The Tajik government announced that it was seeking 23 suspected IMU members who Tajik authorities say attacked supporters of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 28 September 2006, wounding two people.
In 2008, a number of men were arrested in eastern France, the Netherlands and Germany, for allegedly raising funds for the IMU between 2003 and 2008. Nine out of the ten men were convicted on 8 January 2013 in a Paris court.
The IMU and Taliban were blamed for the 28 May 2011 bombing in Taloqan, Afghanistan, that killed a top Afghan National Police commander, General Mohammed Daud Daud, and wounded the Governor of Takhar Province and a German General.
A IMU suicide bomber was responsible for the December 2011 attack on the funeral of an Afghan government official in Takhar, killing 19 people, including Alhaj Mutalib Baig, an ethnic Uzbek Member of Parliament and former Tahkar Chief of Police.
In April 2012, an estimated 150 IMU and TTP fighters launched a successful attack on Bannu Prison in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, freeing nearly 400 prisoners, including Adnan Rashid, who was convicted of involvement in a 2003 assassination attempt against then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
The BBC reported that members of the IMU took part in the 15 December 2012 Peshawar airport attack, resulting in the deaths of 4 civilians and all 5 attackers.
In June 2014, the IMU claimed responsibility for an attack on Pakistan’s Jinnah International Airport. At least 39 people were killed in the attack, including all 10 attackers.
A video released by the IMU in April 2015 showed members of the group beheading a Hazara man, one of 31 people kidnapped from a bus in Afghanistan in February 2015. The men threatened to kill more hostages unless their comrades are released from Afghan jails.