Skip to main content

Australian National Security
You are here >> Skip breadcrumbAustralian National Security > > Terrorist organisations > > Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

(Also known as: Islamic Movement of Turkestan, Islamic Party of Turkestan.)

Listed 11 April 2003, re-listed 11 April 2005, 31 March 2007, 14 March 2009, 9 March 2012 and 15 March 2015.

The following information is based on publicly available details about the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). To the Australian Government's knowledge, these details are accurate and reliable and have been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney-General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  1. is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  2. advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Details of the organisation

Objectives

The origins of the IMU date from the early 1990s, when Juma Namangani, a former Soviet Army soldier who fought in Afghanistan joined forces with Tahir Yuldashav (variant Yuldosh), an unofficial mullah and head of the Adolat (Justice) Party. Their aim was to implement Sharia law in the city of Namangan in Uzbekistan's part of the Ferghana Valley.

Alarmed by Adolat's demands to transform Uzbekistan into an Islamist state, the government banned the Adolat Party in March 1992. A period of repression followed, forcing many Islamic militants to flee the Ferghana Valley. Namangani fled to Tajikistan, where he participated in the Tajik Civil War and established a base for his fighters in that country. Yuldashev travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, establishing links to other Islamic militants. He also made clandestine trips to Uzbekistan, maintaining contact with his supporters and setting up underground cells. By the late 1990s, the IMU was officially formed.

The IMU's stated goal, as posted on the internet in August 1999, is the 'establishment of an Islamic state with the application of the Shariah' in Uzbekistan.

The IMU expanded its territorial focus to encompass an area stretching from the Caucasus to China's western province of Xinjiang, under the new banners of the Islamic Party of Turkestan in April 2001 and the Islamic Movement of Turkestan in May 2001. Despite the name changes, the group's name continues to be reported as the IMU, and it is listed under this name by the US Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism as a foreign terrorist organisation.

By the end of the 1990s, the IMU had relocated to Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, due to the lack of support for the movement in Uzbekistan and the measures taken against it by the Uzbek government.

Leadership

The former chief and co-founder of the IMU, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan, Pakistan, on 27 August 2009. Yuldashev's death was confirmed by the IMU in August 2010. His successor Usmon Odil, a long time associate of Yuldashev was in turn killed by a US drone strike in North Waziristan on 29 April 2012. Odil's death was confirmed by the IMU in August 2012. Odil was replaced by his deputy Usman Ghazi who remains the current leader of the IMU. On 26 September 2014, Ghazi reportedly pledged the allegiance of the IMU to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Membership

The IMU has attracted supporters from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, principally Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, Chechens and Uighurs. The IMU's recruitment efforts have also been aimed at Germans, with a German member of the group, in a video released in 2010, inviting entire families to leave Germany to join the IMU in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The IMU continues to recruit fighters, and IMU members fight alongside the Taliban, al-Qa'ida and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) against Coalition and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan and Pakistani forces in Pakistan. The Ferghana Valley, where the Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik borders converge, is a fertile recruiting ground for the IMU, which has successfully exploited the widespread poverty in the region in its recruitment strategy.

The IMU's losses in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the defection of fighters to a splinter group, the Islamic Jihad Union, have not diminished the group's capability and intent to conduct terrorist attacks. As of late 2013, the IMU claimed to have some 700 fighters and 140 advisers and trainers in Afghanistan, a further 2000 fighters in Pakistan, and an undisclosed number active elsewhere, including Central Asia, the Caucuses, Iran and Syria.

Funding

Sources of funding for the IMU have included Uzbeks who migrated to Islamic countries in the 1920s, in particular Saudi Arabia's Uzbek diaspora which numbers 300,000 people. Funds also come from a number of Turkish foundations and Islamist and pan-Turkic organisations, the Taliban, al-Qa'ida and sympathetic foundations and banks throughout the Arab world.

The IMU also generates funds through drug trafficking, racketeering and solicitation of donations abroad. In May 2008, French, German and Dutch authorities detained ten individuals suspected of running a network to funnel money to the IMU in Uzbekistan. On 8 January 2013, a French Court sentenced a Turkish/Dutch national, Irfan Demirtas, to eight years incarceration for leading the network which French prosecutors said had raised at least 300 000 Euros, with 170 000 Euros specifically designated for jihad. Eight others belonging to the group received lesser sentences.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Directly or indirectly engaged in the doing of terrorist acts

IMU is directly engaged in the doing of terrorist acts. Significant attacks for which responsibility has been claimed by, or attributed to, the IMU (since the IMU proscription was last updated by Australia in March 2012) include:

  • 8 June 2014: the attack at Jinnah International Airport , Karachi, Pakistan, which killed 36 including the 10 attackers.
  • The IMU claimed joint responsibility with TTP for the assault.
  • 18 October 2013: a suicide bomb attack conducted near Bagram Air Base, Parwan Province, Afghanistan, targeting an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) convoy. The IMU claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • 29 May 2013: in concert with the Taliban, the IMU assaulted the Governor's compound in Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. Two of the attackers and a policeman died in the attack.
  • 12  May 2013: the director of the Police Department in Quetta, Pakistan, was murdered in an IMU suicide attack.
  • 15 April 2012: IMU fighters attacked Bannu Prison, Pakistan, liberating 384 prisoners—20 described by a Pakistani government spokesman as “very dangerous”.

Directly or indirectly fostering the doing of terrorist acts

The IMU indirectly fosters the doing of terrorist acts by releasing propaganda material of its militant activities. The IMU maintains a media wing, known as Jundallah Studio, which produces and releases propaganda video and audio statements.

  • On 12 February 2014 the IMU released a 32 minute video featuring scenes from Mir Ali, North Waziristan, filmed in December 2013, depicting IMU and other jihadi factions attacking Pakistani government forces.
  • On 31 May 2013 the IMU released a video statement indicating it had participated in an attack conducted in concert with the Afghan Taliban in Panjshir province Afghanistan on May 29 2013.
  • On 26 June 2012 the IMU released a video of two female fighters calling on Muslims to conduct Jihad and urging women to marry fighters and to prepare their children for jihad.
  • On 17 March 2011, the IMU released a 21 minute video recording apparently showing a series of attacks on Coalition forces in July-August 2010 in the Chahar Dara District of Afghanistan's Kunduz Province.
  • In June 2010, the IMU produced a video compilation containing footage of operations and attacks conducted by militants, including Germans, from April to June 2010.  These videos contained German introductions and German subtitles.
  • In December 2009, the IMU released English and German-subtitled videos showing a meeting between its former chief, Tahir Yuldashev, and the leader of Tehrik‑e‑Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hakimullah Mahsud.  The video shows Tahir and Mahsud talking with each other, walking together and taking turns firing a gun.  The video also shows Tahir reading a eulogy for slain TTP leader Baitullah Mahsud, stressing that jihad will not cease with the death of its leaders.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses that the IMU continues to directly and/or indirectly engage in preparing, planning, assisting, advocating or fostering the doing of acts involving threats to human life and serious damage to property. This assessment is corroborated by information provided by reliable and credible intelligence sources.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, the IMU is known to have committed or threatened action:

  • that causes, or could cause, serious damage to property, the death of persons or endanger a person's life or create a serious risk to a person's safety
  • are done with the intention of advancing the IMU's political, religious and ideological causes
  • are done with the intention of coercing or influencing by intimidation the governments of foreign countries
  • are done with the intention of intimidating sections of the public globally.

Other relevant information

Links to other terrorist groups or networks

The IMU has had historically close ties with al-Qa'ida, the Taliban and other militant groups in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theatre. Senior IMU leaders have held positions in the al-Qa'ida hierarchy. In Pakistan the IMU has conducted joint operations with the TTP. On 26 September 2014 the IMU reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIL.

Threat to Australian interests

The IMU does not represent a direct threat to Australian interests. However given the sometimes indiscriminate nature of IMU attacks and its disregard for loss of life, Australians could be caught up in attacks directed at others in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Proscription by the UN and other countries

The IMU has been listed in the United Nations 1267 Committee's consolidated list and as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Peace and mediation processes

The IMU is not known to have participated in peace or mediation processes.