The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) issued a new official statement in the past few days titled “Today We Need Your Prayers” that aside from the group’s name never mentioned Uzbekistan. Instead, it advertised recent battles alongside the Taliban in Badakhshan (Afghanistan) and emphasized the IMU’s role in fighting against Pakistan’s central government (follow link at your own discretion to the Uzbek text at the IMU’s webpage, Jundurrahmon.com).
As this site has consistently argued, the IMU has long been coopted into the war in Afghanistan and increasingly into the conflict between Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP, the Pakistani Taliban) and government of Pakistan. This spring, the IMU splintered again to create a unit specifically dedicated to operations inside Pakistan. Numbers for the movement are difficult to estimate exactly but are likely no more than the low hundreds, and according to the martyr lists published by the IMU itself most recruits now come from inside Afghanistan.
All this makes the new statement more surprising: much of the content is devoted to anger about cartoon images of the Prophet in Denmark, France and Germany and wingnut pastor Terry Jones’ self-promotional Qur’an burning in Florida. Later in the announcement they say:
Ташқари давлатларда ҳам озми-кўпми Аллоҳ таъоло қодир қилганча иш олиб бормоқдамиз. Шу кунларда бир қанча мужоҳидларимиз яна олис сангарларга жўнатилмоқдалар. Барча жабҳаларда жиҳод қилаётган мужоҳидларимиз тез кунларда сизу бизга яна каттадан-катта амалиётлар ўтказишларини ваъда беряптилар.
As Allah the Most High makes it possible, we are also steadily undertaking work in foreign states. Currently there are a number of our mujohids deployed to far-off outposts. On every front our jihadi mujahids promise to soon conduct significant large-scale operations.
The claims seem almost certainly aspirational, but may all the same signal a new strategy for the IMU. In May of this year Fazliddin Kurbanov, an Uzbekistani citizen, was arrested in Idaho for attempting to construct bombs and provide material support to the IMU. This may be exactly the kind of “jihadi mujahid” that “promise” operations unlikely to ever come to fruition but ruin the lives of tormented and lonely refugees like Kurbanov and Jamshid Muxtarov, who sadly escape persecution in Uzbekistan only to fall into the cracks of the global war on terror.
Watch this space in the upcoming weeks for more material on the social media strategies of groups like the IMU and IJU and the Uzbek communities who push back.