According to Abdughaffar Kalandarov, chief prosecutor of Sogd district in northern Tajikistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan considerably stepped up its activity in the region after the punitive operation conducted by Uzbek security forces in Andijan, Uzbekistan, in May 2005.
Kalandarov claims that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has become even more dangerous than the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that aspires to create a global Caliphate. “We detained several members of the IMU and brought charges against them. We confiscated ammunition and weapons from them, which included a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, Makarov pistol, grenade launcher, and military uniforms,” said Kalandarov. His remarks came two days after a group of armed people wearing masks attacked a prison in the Kara-Kum district of Tajikistan and freed a prisoner suspected of being a member of the IMU. Tajik officials believe that the militants who attacked the prison have been hiding in the Batken district of Kyrgyzstan, which borders Tajikistan (fergana.ru, February 2).
In the 1990s Tajikistan’s Islamic radicals were most active in the southern districts of the country, but after the civil war in Tajikistan ended in 1997, they shifted their activity to the northern part of the country, specifically to the Fergana Valley portion of Tajikistan. Muhiddin Kabiry, chairman of the Islamic Party of Tajikistan, told Jamestown that members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other Islamic radicals are now most active in the northern part of Tajikistan. “The higher number of Islamic radicals in the north of Tajikistan is easy to explain — there was no civil war in that region. Tajiks from the southern and central regions had a taste of war and have become more careful than their compatriots in the north,” Tajik political scientist Parviz Mullodjanov, executive director of the Public Committee to Assist Democratization, told Jamestown.
As Eurasia Daily Monitor reported in May 2005, the Sogd Court convicted 12 members of the Islamic extremist organization Bayat (meaning “oath” in Tajik). Members of that organization were accused of killing a Baptist minister in the Isfar region of the Sogd district of Tajikistan. In April 2004, the president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmonov, said that Tajik members of Bayat had fought on the side of the Taliban in Afghanistan and that some of them are now in American custody at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba. According to the mayor of Isfar, Muzasharif Islamudinnov, members of Bayat maintain close links with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (see fergana.ru, December 4, 2004; Avesta, June 1, 2005; EDM, November 2, 2005).
Analysts are split in their views concerning Bayat. For example Kabiry believes, “The organization Bayat is nothing more than a mere myth created by the Tajik Secret Services, which have an interest in advertising the threat.” However, it is obvious that the activity of Islamic radicals in the Tajik part of the Fergana Valley has been drastically increasing. The murder of the Protestant minister — even if the trial of the Bayat members was rigged — is indirect proof that Christian missionaries provoke indignation among Tajik Muslims. Furthermore, no one denies that the people accused of being Bayat members put up armed resistance to police during the arrest. A successful attack on the prison in the Kara-Kum district is yet more proof of the escalation of tension in northern Tajikistan. The whole Fergana Valley is a potential tinderbox, as a single ethno-cultural region has been divided among three states: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Today the situation in all three parts of the Fergana Valley has sharply deteriorated. Without a doubt, the first indicator of the serious exacerbation of the situation in the Fergana Valley was the authorities’ bloody suppression of the uprising of the Islamic organization Akramiya in Andijan. However, there is not any assurance that Tashkent managed to completely annihilate Akramiya.
Islamic organizations have links all across the Fergana Valley. Information about Akramiya’s activities in the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley appeared right after the suppression of the uprising (Russian Newsweek, August 10, 2005). Furthermore, all of the individuals alleged to be members of Bayat hail from the Isfar district of Tajikistan, which borders the Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley. The chief prosecutor of Sogd district claims that the people who attacked the prison in the Tajik city of Kara-Kum hid in the Batken district of Kyrgyzstan, which borders on Tajikistan. It was in this district of the Fergana valley of Kyrgyzstan that fighting erupted between the Kyrgyz Army and IMU militants who were trying to infiltrate the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan in 1999.