Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 124

From June 22 to June 26, the Defense Ministry of Uzbekistan conducted command-staff exercises in the city of Tashkent and in the Tashkent Region. The main purpose of these exercises was to practice coordination among the army, the Internal Affairs Ministry and state security agencies in protecting government buildings, vital economic installations and communication lines, and overall security in and around the capital. The exercises, the first of their kind in Uzbekistan, reflected the leadership’s preoccupation with preventing acts of terrorism in the wake of the bomb attacks perpetrated on February 16 in downtown Tashkent (see the Monitor, May 13, 20, June 4).

In a nationwide broadcast during the exercises, President Islam Karimov called attention to the emergence in Uzbekistan of radical Islamic underground groups, created–according to Karimov–through foreign covert action. Apparently on the basis of counterintelligence data, the president decried the susceptibility of some “immature youngsters” to being recruited by those groups. Karimov called for a more systematic “patriotic education of the youth” as part of a wider effort to “consolidate society on the basis of the national idea and a national ideology.” As in other Muslim countries–Turkey being paradigmatic in this regard–secular nationalism is called upon in Uzbekistan to function as an antidote to supranational fundamentalist Islam.

In a related development, the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan completed trial proceedings against twenty-two accused participants and accomplices in the February 16 attacks, which killed sixteen bystanders and narrowly missed the country’s leadership. The prosecution has demanded the death penalty for ten of the accused and prison terms ranging from fourteen to twenty years for twelve of the accused. According to the prosecution, the twenty-two defendants are only a part of the network of Islamic radicals behind the bomb attacks. Some of the perpetrators are believed to be at large both in the country and abroad (Uzbek Television, Radio Tashkent, June 22-26).