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Karachi Airport Attack Shines Light on Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

Karachi Airport Attack Shines Light on Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

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On the evening of Sunday, June 8th 2014, 10 terrorists allegedly from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) infiltrated Pakistan’s largest and busiest airport.   The terrorists attacked the Jinnah International Airport in the sprawling, seaport city of Karachi.  The setting of the attack was the airport’s old terminal which is used for cargo and military aircraft.  The ten men, most of Uzbek origin, fired automatic weapons, detonated grenades, and used explosive suicide vests when they were finally about to be apprehended by Pakistani authorities.  By Monday morning, 39 people were confirmed dead, including the 10 terrorists.

The IMU and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack several days later  If the IMU is responsible for the attack it potentially demonstrates the reemergence of the IMU and the threat of Central Asian Islamic fundamentalist groups banding together with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban to destabilize the region.

In 1998 the IMU was established with the ultimate goal of eliminating Uzbekistan’s longtime President Islam Karimov and implementing Sharia Law in the Fergana Valley along the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border region.  After a sustained series of defeats the IMU was driven out of their stronghold in the Fergana Valley and fled to north Afghanistan in 1999 where they allied with the Taliban.

As a result of the September 11th attacks, Operation Enduring Freedom commenced on October 7th 2001.  The U.S. worked with the Northern Alliance in order to retake Kabul from the Taliban.  As the U.S. fought their way toward Kabul, the IMU was uprooted from north Afghanistan and fled to a new safe haven in South Waziristan, Pakistan.  By the time the IMU reached northwest Pakistan they were severely weakened from fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The IMU is reportedly joining forces with TTP as a way to balance out their relative strengths and weaknesses.  The alliance of these two organizations raises concerns because these radical terrorist groups, which had been adversaries years ago, are now working together with shared objectives.  The IMU is also working together with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, from the autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas in northwest Pakistan.

Coalition forces are currently in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan.  There is a risk of the Taliban, along with Al-Qaeda, regaining significant territory in Afghanistan once coalition forces finally depart.  The potential threat could be compounded by other terrorist organizations joining forces.  The IMU, with enough support, could then be able to more efficiently resume their original goals of attacking the Uzbekistan government and instilling Sharia Law in the Fergana Valley.

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