ISAF claims to have captured a “top IMU leader” in Kunduz province.
Combined forces captured the top Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorist group leader in Afghanistan April 20 in the Khanabad district of Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, military officials reported today.
Troops had been conducting clearing operations in search of the leader for several weeks, officials said, noting he’s the direct contact between Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leadership in Pakistan, and is responsible for training and operations in both countries.
NATO and Afghan forces throughout Afghanistan have killed more than 20 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorists in the past two months, including four senior leaders, officials added.
I get that there’s a big push to go after the IMU in northern Afghanistan, even if you might accidentally maim a few Members of Parliament in the process. But who is this guy? ISAF rarely names its detainees unless they are big names or have a strategic effect in being taken off the battlefield; if this IMU leader is as big a deal as this press release claims he is, why isn’t he being named?
BBC reporter Bilal Sarway tweeted that the guy’s alias is “Hanzala.” That, however, sounds made up, and I was unable to find any reference in the last years to the name “Hanzala” associated with “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” or “IMU” on Lexis-Nexis. (I did learn that a Mullah Hanzala reconciled with the government in Helmand but was killed by an exploding mine, and the district chief of Moqur in Badghis is names Hanzala as well, but that’s not really helpful.)
Given ISAF’s habit of tagging low-level nobodies and trying to spin it as Serious Moves Against The Insurgency, I’m scratching my head how this could be a legit story, and not another Mohammad Amin.
Here’s the other thing: the IMU aren’t stupid. They know there’s a campaign to go after them. If this guy was really, like, the seniorest of all senior field commanders, what on earth was he doing in a beleaguered area of Kunduz? The Uzbek militants in Afghanistan are many things, including monsters. But they are not stupid.