Coalition and Afghan forces killed a dual-hatted Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Taliban district commander during a raid in northern Afghanistan four days ago.
The International Security Assistance Force confirmed on Dec. 1 that the commander, Shukrullah, and two “insurgents,” were killed during a Nov. 30 raid in the Almar district in Faryab province. The initial ISAF press release described Shukrullah as a “senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader,” and said he “coordinated the Oct. 26 suicide attack in Maimana district, Faryab province that killed 41 Afghans.”
The ISAF press release also stated that Shukrullah “trained insurgents and provided improvised explosive device components to both IMU and Taliban fighters throughout Faryab and Sar-i-Pul province.”
In a follow-up inquiry, ISAF told The Long War Journal that Shukrullah “was the senior IMU/Taliban leader in the Almar district of Faryab province” and that the “other two individuals killed with him were known Taliban insurgents.”
ISAF also said that “Shukrullah was an Afghan national of Uzbek decent.”
While no group has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 26 suicide attack at the Eid Gah mosque in Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab, The Long War Journal reported that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Taliban likely executed the bombing [see LWJ report, Suicide bomber kills 40 people at mosque in Afghan north].
Shukrullah serves as an example of how the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north. IMU leaders have served in the top tiers of the Taliban’s shadow governments in northern Afghanistan, and IMU fighters and commanders often conduct joint operations with the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other regional terrorist groups.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a prime target of ISAF special operations raids. ISAF has executed at least 37 raids that targeted the IMU this year, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. Three of those raids took place last month; an IMU “weapons facilitator” was captured during the last raid, on Nov. 25 in Takhar province.
The vast majority of these reported raids have been conducted in northern Afghanistan, a hotbed for IMU operations. ISAF does not report all of its raids against the IMU, al Qaeda, and other foreign terror groups.
Background on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and supports operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as plots attacks in Europe. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north. [For more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan.]
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters often serve as bodyguards for top Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The IMU fights alongside the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has stepped up attacks in Central Asian countries as well. In September 2010, the IMU took credit for the Sept. 19 ambush that killed 25 Tajik troops, and also threatened to carry out further attacks in the Central Asian country.
The IMU has claimed credit for numerous suicide assaults in Afghanistan, including the May 19, 2010 attack on the US military airbase in Bagram, the Oct. 15, 2011 assault on the Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Panjshir, and the Oct. 29, 2011 suicide attack that targeted an armored bus in Kabul.
The IMU has been a prime target of special operations forces in Afghanistan. So far this year, special operations forces have conducted at least 36 raids against the IMU; in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Faryab, Logar, Helmand, Kunduz, Takhar, and Wardak, or eight of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces; according to ISAF press releases compiled by The Long War Journal.
In October, the US Treasury Department added Qari Ayyub Bashir, the “head of finance” for the IMU, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Bashir also serves as a member of the group’s shura, or executive council. Identified as an Uzbek national, Bashir is based out of Mir Ali, in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. As the IMU’s lead financier, he provides financial and “logistical” support for IMU operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and fundraises from outside the region.
This spring, ISAF killed the two previous IMU leaders for Afghanistan, in raids just a few weeks apart in Faryab province. [See LWJ report, Special operations forces kill newly appointed IMU leader for Afghanistan, for more information.]
Additionally, the US has targeted the IMU’s leaders and network in Pakistan’s tribal areas. US drones have killed the last two emirs of the IMU. On Aug. 4, the IMU announced that its emir, Abu Usman Adil, was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, and named Usman Ghazi as the new leader of the al Qaeda-linked terror group. Adil succeeded Tahir Yuldashev, the co-founder of the IMU, who was killed in a drone strike in September 2009.
Adil is credited with increasing the IMU’s profile in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the death of Yuldashev, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Whereas Yuldashev had been content with confining the group’s operations largely to Pakistan’s tribal areas, Adil pushed to expand operations in northern and eastern Afghanistan, as well as in the Central Asian republics.