Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)

August 17, 2008

Name: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), also known as Islamic Party of Turkestan
Type: religious (fundamentalist); nationalist/separatist

Ideology: Militant pan-Islamist. The group originally focused on overthrowing the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and replacing it with an Islamic state in Uzbekistan.  When changing its name to the Islamic Party of Turkestan in June 2001, the group expanded its original goal of establishing an Islamic state in Uzbekistan to the creation of an Islamic state in all of Central Asia, which would include all of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and China’s Xinxiang province.[1,2,3,4]

Description: The IMU is made up of militant Islamist extremists mostly from Uzbekistan, but includes other Central Asian nationalities and ethnic groups as well. The group has mainly conducted small-scale armed attacks, including car bombings and taking hostages, and it has limited incursions into Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. While the group’s early attacks focused on Uzbek targets, recent operations have been closer to the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border, indicating the IMU’s ambitions of igniting a broader conflict. The IMU has also conducted attacks more openly, withdrawing to villages and disguising themselves as locals rather than retreating to the mountains following an attack.[3]

Group Leaders: Tahir Yuldosh, field commander Juma Namangani

Leader Backgrounds:

  • Tahir Yuldosh: Yuldosh was elected the leader of Uzbekistan’s Adolat (Justice) party and was named by the Uzbek government as one of the conspirators behind the attempted assassination of Uzbekistan’s President Karimov in February 1999. In May 1999, Yuldosh obtained the Taliban’s permission to establish a military training camp for the IMU in northern Afghanistan, where he is still believed to be hiding.[5]
  • Juma Namangani: Namangani fought with the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) in the Tajik Civil War (1992-1997). In August 1999, he led a group of 800 militants into southern Kyrgyzstan, where they captured villages and hostages and threatened to attack Uzbekistan.[5] In August 2000, IMU rebels led by Namangani made incursions into southern Uzbekistan, mountainous areas just outside of Tashkent, and several areas in southern Kyrgyzstan. In July 2001, rebels attempted to capture a television relay station in Kyrgyzstan that transmits programs to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Namangani is also currently believed to be training Islamic militants in northern Afghanistan. Sources indicate that he may have been appointed a “deputy” of Usama bin Laden sometime in 2001.[6]

In November 2000, Yuldosh and Namangani were both sentenced to death in abstensia for bombings that were conducted in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in February 1999[7,8]

Group Ties: The IMU is part of a network of and receives support from other fundamentalist Islamist groups throughout Central and South Asia. Russia, China, and the United States believe that the Taliban aided the group, at least by harboring the militants and providing training camps.[1] The group shares many common goals with Hizb-e Tahrir, an underground Islamist party active in Central Asia, though the less violent Hizb-e Tahrir is not considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.[9, 10]The IMU has also reportedly received financing from Usama bin Laden and trained in Afghanistan at camps associated with Bin Laden’s al-Qaida.[1,2,3,4,7,11,12]

Location(s): The IMU is active throughout Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The group operates largely in the Ferghana Valley on the Uzbek/Kyrgyz border where it receives support and some protection from local inhabitants. The IMU purportedly has military bases in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and a “forward base of operations” in Batken, Kyrgyzstan.[1,2,3,4,13] In December 2000, Namangani moved 250-300 “well armed guerillas” to a new camp in Tavildera, Tajikistan.[14]

Founded: August 1999, in Uzbekistan[1]

Total Members: The total number of members is unknown; however sources have estimated several thousand active members.[2]

Incidents: In addition to the IMU’s military attacks, the Kyrgyz secret service believes the group is controlling drug trafficking between Afghanistan and Central Asia.[12] The Kyrgyz secret service has reported that Juma Namangani is leading IMU gunmen in efforts to manage the northern section of drug trafficking from Afghanistan to help finance the group’s operations. Afghanistan reportedly controls two-thirds of the world’s heroin production, and officials suspect Usama bin Laden and the Taliban are directly connected to the drug trade, which has provided extensive financing for Islamic terrorist networks in the region.[12]

[1] “Islamic Party of Turkestan,”, accessed September 21, 2001.
[2] “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” US Department of State Patterns of Global Terrorism,, accessed September 21, 2000.
[3] Arslan Koichev, “Skirmishes Suggest IMU is Changing Tactics,” EurasiaNet,, accessed September 21, 2001.
[4] Richard Boucher, “Intent to Designate as Foreign Terrorist Organization the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” US Department of State Office of the Spokesman Press Statement,, accessed September 21, 2001.
[5] Ahmed Rashid, “The Taleban: Exporting Extremism,” Foreign Affairs (November/December 1999).
[6] “Taliban Slammed over Bin Laden Appointment,” Virtual New York,, accessed August 30, 2001.
[7] “Uzbek Court Sentences Two to Death for ‘Terrorism’,” Uzbekistan Daily Digest, November 20, 2000.
[8] “Kyrgyzstan: Background to Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan in Autumn in Autumn 1999,” WriteNet Paper No. 16/1999,, accessed October 1, 2001.
[9] Ahmed Rashid, “Interview with Leader of Hizb-e Tahrir,” Central Asia Caucasus Analyst: Biweekly Briefing,, accessed October 1, 2001.
[10] “Central Asia: Islamist Mobilisation and Regional Security,” Crisisweb,, accessed on October 1, 2001.
[11] “Islamic Fighters Astir in Central Asia,” Far Eastern Economic Review,, accessed September 21, 2001.
[12] “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Controls Drug Traffic to Central Asia, Special Services Say,” Pravda,, accessed September 21, 2001.
[13] Arslan Koichiev, “Batken Residents Furious Over Secret Kyrgyz-Uzbek Deal,”, accessed October 1, 2001.
[14] Ahmed Rashid, “Namangani’s Foray Causes Concern Among Central Asian Governments,”, accessed October 1, 2001.

Comments Are Closed