HT, Neo-IMU, & Jamoat

by Nathan Hamm on 11/16/2004 · 1 comment

Daniel Kimmage looks at the emerging details concerning the group behind this year’s Tashkent bombings after the earlier arrest of cell members in Kazakhstan. The group, which Kimmage refers to as “Mujahedin of Central Asia Group” (Uzbek authorities have usually referred to it as Jamoat), is connected to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan through two IMU veterans. Some members of the group were sent to Pakistan for training.

Of particular interest to me is the connection, or lack thereof, between the group and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Given the histories of the two organizations and the information that is common to both official Uzbek and Kazakh accounts, the involvement of a “neo-IMU” in the attacks in Uzbekistan appears more likely than the sudden transformation of HT into a violent terrorist organization. Before the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan destroyed its base of operations, the IMU carried out violent attacks on the Uzbek government, and the IMU is well within the ideological orbit of violent jihad, especially after its leadership developed close ties with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The neo-IMU would seem to consist of surviving members of the original IMU who fled Afghanistan after late 2001 and regrouped elsewhere, some in remote areas of Pakistan and others in Central Asia. The neo-IMU may also have drawn current or former adherents of HT in Central Asia, and particularly Uzbekistan, who wished to take more direct action.

The insistence by Uzbek authorities that most, if not all, roads lead to HT may represent a refusal to deviate from what has now been official policy for several years — that HT represents the greatest threat to stability in Uzbek society. In the context of this policy, the focus on HT in defendants’ testimony could have resulted from the actions of overzealous investigators and prosecutors. An 18 August letter from Human Rights Watch to President Karimov raised the issue of coercion in the abovementioned trial of 15 defendants, stating, “the prosecution’s case is based entirely on the defendants’ confessions, and the defense has so far failed to inquire at trial as to the conditions under which such confessions were made.”

Now, technically, I have to agree that Hizb ut-Tahrir didn’t play a direct role in the attacks. The impression that the Uzbek government insists HT played a role is cultivated by irresponsible reporters (Burt Herman is solid gold though), and this impression minimizes the threat that HT poses. Reasonable people can disagree about the magnitude of the threat, but it certainly does exist. I am certainly skeptical about the veracity of any defendant’s testimony in major trials in Uzbekistan, so I am quite doubtful that HT was as much of an influence as the defendants testified in their trials. The Uzbek government still has a valid point though when they say that the ideology of HT is a threat to the region. Even if the group is peaceful, it appears that some of its members appear to be unsatisfied with the nonviolent approach.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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