The terrorist group “Jamaat of Central Asian Mujahideen,” which is structurally affiliated with the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda, has been exposed and dismantled in Kazakhstan. According to Vladimir Bozhko, first deputy director of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB), the group included four female members, trained as suicide bombers, from the Southern Kazakhstan Oblast. Bozhko added that group members were found to have about 2,000 audio- and videocassettes featuring terrorist propaganda, including messages from Osama bin Laden. The group also had fake passports and equipment to produce counterfeit documents, as well as components for basic explosive devices, ammunition, and weapons (see EDM, November 16).
According to Bozhko, KNB operatives identified and detained one citizen of Uzbekistan, Abos Usmonov, who “had received an assignment from abroad and, with his accomplices, he was preparing to organize terrorist acts in Uzbekistan against one of the high-ranking officials of that country.” Bozhko also stated that the Jamaat was administered from abroad through appointed leaders Ð emirs. One of them, Akhmed Bekmurzayev, was killed during the counterterrorist operations in Tashkent in March of this year. The second emir is Zhakshybek Biimurzayev, an ethnic Kyrgyz from Kyrgyzstan; he also had citizenship papers from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Investigators say the latter organized the terrorist attacks in Tashkent in March-April and in July of this year (Interfax-Kazakhstan, November 11).
Throughout the investigations into this year’s terrorist acts in Uzbekistan, allegations of “Kazakhstani fingerprints” frequently arose. Thus, during the trial of the alleged organizers of the attacks, before the Supreme Court of Republic of Uzbekistan, prosecutor Murad Khalikov presented an indictment that charged that the terrorists had trained in militant camps located on the territory of Kazakhstan (Interfax, July 26). In late October the operatives from the KNB Department for the Southern Kazakhstani Oblast extradited back to Uzbekistan Odillkhon Mominov, a citizen of Uzbekistan who “was wanted for participation in illegal religious-extremist organizations of the Wahhabite orientation.” This was the fifth time in three years that Kazakhstan extradited an Uzbekistan citizen suspected of active participation in illegal religious extremist organizations (see also EDM, November 3).
The active participation of neighboring states in the domestic struggle between Tashkent and local fundamentalists can be easily explained. The state borders between the Central Asian countries were drawn arbitrarily in the 1920s, which led to the formation of the large Uzbek Diaspora, which is densely concentrated just outside the borders of contemporary Uzbekistan — and on the territory of neighboring countries. Thus, Uzbeks constitute approximately 30% of the population of the southern part of Kyrgyzstan and northern Tajikistan, while in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan Uzbeks comprise 25% of the population in border regions.
The relatively liberal, as compared to Uzbekistan, state policies of the authorities in the countries neighboring to Uzbekistan (with the exception of Turkmenistan) encouraged Uzbekistani Islamists to seek refuge abroad. Thus, prior to 2000 the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) had bases inside Tajikistan. However in 2000, under pressure from Tashkent, Tajikistan President Imomali Rakhmonov convinced the Uzbek militants to leave the country.
Since then the epicenter of the Uzbekistani Islamists has been the predominantly Uzbek-populated areas of southern Kyrgyzstan. In fact, the deputy head of police of Osh Oblast (southern Kyrgyzstan), Erkin Ersenaliev, admitted that more than 500 individuals residing in Osh Oblast are suspected of having ties with the IMU (Jamestown Terrorism Monitor, December 18, 2003). The Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HUT) party also operates in the Uzbek-populated areas of Kyrgyzstan, although in neighboring Uzbekistan anyone found in possession of HUT materials is guaranteed to receive a long prison sentence. Nonetheless, in recent years Uzbekistan’s special services have begun to arrest Islamists inside Kyrgyzstan without officially notifying Bishkek. Moreover, citizens of both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan who are suspected of having ties with the Islamist underground in Uzbekistan are subject to detention and subsequent extradition to Uzbekistan (forum18.org, October 21, 2003). Apparently it is Tashkent’s clandestine activities on the territory of Kyrgyzstan that forced the Uzbek Islamists to relocate to the ethnic Uzbek enclaves in southern Kazakhstan.