November 6, 2012 | FDD’s Long War Journal

ISAF Captured IMU Weapons Trafficker in Northern Afghanistan

November 6, 2012 | FDD’s Long War Journal

ISAF Captured IMU Weapons Trafficker in Northern Afghanistan

The International Security Assistance Force has reported the capture of an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan “facilitator and weapons trafficker” during an operation in the Afghan province of Kunduz. This is the first reported operation targeting a member of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in almost a month.

A combined Afghan and Coalition force arrested the target, who was identified as an Afghan national of Uzbek descent, in Chahar Darah district, Kunduz province, the International Security Assistance Force told The Long War Journal.

The unnamed facilitator “is believed to have financed the acquisition of weapons and coordinated their transfer and delivery to insurgents for use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces” according to the ISAF press release. One other suspected insurgent was also detained during the operation.

Kunduz an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan hotspot

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.

IMU operatives in particular, are very active in Kunduz province and throughout northern Afghanistan based on a study by The Long War Journal of ISAF raids targeting the group. Special operations forces have conducted 34 raids against the IMU so far this year, 14 of those raid were in Kunduz province alone. 

The last reported raid targeting of an IMU member in Kunduz occurred nearly a month ago on Oct. 10, which resulted in the capture of an IMU “financial facilitator.” Prior to that, “a senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader and weapons facilitator” was detained on Oct. 2 in the same district as today's raid, Chahar Darah. ISAF does not issue press releases for all of the raids that target the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al Qaeda, or other foreign terror groups operating in Afghanistan.

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 34 raids against the IMU; in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Faryab, Logar, Helmand, Kunduz, Takhar, and Wardak, or eight of Afghanistan's 34 provinces; according to ISAF press releases compiled by The Long War Journal.

In October, the US Treasury Department added Qari Ayyub Bashir, the “head of finance” for the IMU, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Bashir also serves as a member of the group's shura, or executive council. Identified as an Uzbek national, Bashir is based out of Mir Ali, in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. As IMU's lead financer, he provides financial and “logistical” support for IMU operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and fundraises from outside the region

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.

Patrick Megahan is a communications associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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