Uzbekistan says it has new leader and can attack targets in Central Asia.  By 
IWPR Central Asia

majority before president formally anoints governing party.  By Pavel 
Dyatlenko, Timur Toktonaliev

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Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan says it has new leader and can attack targets in 
Central Asia.

By IWPR Central Asia

Recent statements by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU, announcing a new 
leader and taking responsibility for an attack in which 25 government troops 
were killed in Tajikistan have raised questions about whether the guerrilla 
group plans to revive its presence in Central Asia. 

Central Asia’s most feared Islamic group, which launched raids into Kyrgyzstan 
and Uzbekistan in 1999 and 2000, relocated to South Waziristan in Pakistan’s 
tribal area after the fall of the Taleban government in Afghanistan in late 

However, over the last year or so, many IMU members are reported to have seeped 
into the northeast of Afghanistan, adjacent to Tajikistan. In part this was due 
to pressure exerted by Pakistani army ground offensives and drone attacks by 
the United States military. But their relocation to northern Afghanistan was 
seen by some analysts as a possible Taleban ploy to disrupt NATO supplies 
coming through Central Asia, at a time when convoys on the southern route from 
Pakistan faces rising threats from militant attacks. (IWPR reported on this 
issue in Is Uzbek Guerrilla Force Planning Homecoming?)

In mid-August, a website linked to the IMU carried news that it had selected a 
new leader, Usmon Odil.

According to the statement, Odil replaces Tohir Yoldash, who it said died last 
year. Yoldash was a well-known activist in Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley in the 
early 1990s, where he was part of an Islamic group that emerged in the city of 
Namangan. Members of the group moved to Tajikistan to and fought alongside 
Islamist guerrillas 1992-97 civil war, and then emerged as the IMU, dedicated 
to toppling the governments of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states, later 
shifting to Afghanistan and then Pakistan.

Yoldash was reported to have been injured or killed by a rocket fired by a US 
drone plane in South Waziristan August 2009, but this had not been confirmed 
conclusively until the IMU admitted the fact, showing him on his deathbed in a 
video dated August 2010. (See our report from the time  Could IMU Chief's Death 
Curb Rebel Force in Afghanistan?.)

The IMU said it held off publicising his death “so that Muslims would not feel 
dispirited and the infidels could not rejoice”.

Little is known about the new leader, Odil, except that he apparently comes 
from Namangan and is married to Yoldash’s eldest daughter.

On September 23, a video recording was sent to RFE/RL radio’s Tajik service 
showing a man who identified himself as IMU spokesman Abdufattoh Ahmadi, and 
claimed responsibility for an attack on an army convoy in eastern Tajikistan 
four days earlier in which 25 soldiers were killed. The troops had been sent 
into the areas to track down 25 prisoners who escaped from a prison in the 
capital Dushanbe in August.

The Tajik authorities were concerned at the reappearance of armed groups in the 
eastern mountains, 13 years after the end of the Tajik civil war. Since civil 
war-era guerrilla leaders had been allied with the force that would later 
become the IMU, the prospect of a link-up with battle-hardened Uzbek militants 
based on the Afghan side of a porous border was especially alarming. (See Tajik 
Authorities Struggle to Quell Militants.)

In the recording, Ahmadi said the attack was in retaliation for Tajik 
government policies such as closing mosques, jailing Muslims and banning 
Islamic forms of dress.

However, he also hinted at a wider, geopolitical dimension to the IMU’s 
ambitions, saying it opposed the Tajik authorities’ cooperation with the 
international military presence in Afghanistan.

The current risk posed by the IMU to the Central Asian states – in particular 
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – remains uncertain, but is likely to 
differ in nature in each of these three states.

Tajikistan’s proximity to Afghanistan and the apparent resurgence of armed 
groups either sympathetic to the IMU, or possibly in contact with it, is an 
obvious concern. The 1999-2000 raids into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were 
conducted from mountainous parts of Tajikistan where the IMU had local allies.

Southern Kyrgyzstan is only just recovering from a wave of clashes between the 
ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in June, which left 400 dead.

Andrei Medvedev, director of the Centre for Political Technologies in Moscow, 
argues that instability in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan offers the IMU a chance to 
gain a foothold.

“The situation in the region has reached a peak of intensity, and the situation 
is ripe for a range of terrorist activities,” he said. “I don’t think the IMU’s 
situation has changed [for the worse]; on the contrary it has become stronger.”

Of the three countries that could become targets for IMU activities, Uzbekistan 
is probably best placed to contain any outbreak of fighting.

Farhod Tolipov, an analyst based in Tashkent, said violent extremist groups 
like the IMU could only ever present localised threats.

“They are always a danger, in the sense that they can carry out localised 
subversive acts. But all the experience of counter-terrorism to date shows that 
when radical groups emerge, government forces in the [Central Asian] region can 
take them on and deal with them,” Tolipov said.

He said there was little popular appetite for Islamic radicalism, and groups 
like the IMU had few supporters. “If their ideas were popular among the 
population we would have already seen large-scale disturbances.”

While the south of Kyrgyzstan has long been a hotbed of Islamist sentiment, 
religion did not appear to play much of a role in the conflict, but some 
experts warn that the IMU could try to exploit the residual resentments to try 
to reinsert itself into the area and win support among local Uzbeks.

Tashpulat Yoldashev, an analyst from Uzbekistan now living in the United 
States, said there was a risk of the IMU gaining ground in southern Kyrgyzstan.

“There are people who’ve lost everything – all their relatives, homes and 
properties. I am worried that they might join the IMU and end up fighting in 
Kyrgyzstan,” he said.

Yoldashev said the IMU’s latest statements and threats were designed to “show 
the world it is becoming more active”.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.


Race to secure parliamentary majority before president formally anoints 
governing party.

By Pavel Dyatlenko, Timur Toktonaliev

With no clear winner in Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary election, the five parties 
that gained seats have immediately plunged into a race to build a ruling 
coalition with the right to choose the next prime minister. 

The October 10 polls went off peacefully, a particular achievement given the 
political turbulence that has troubled Kyrgyzstan since Kurmanbek Bakiev was 
forced from presidential office in April and the mass violence that left over 
400 dead in June. Not only that, but the conduct of the vote won rare accolades 
from international observers, who described it as largely free and fair. 

“The last few weeks show that Kyrgyzstan can hold elections marked by 
pluralism, an independent election administration and respect for fundamental 
freedoms,” OSCE election monitoring mission head Corien Jonker said. 

At a September 13 press conference, reported by the 24.kg news agency, Justice 
Minister Aida Salyanova explained what would happen next – since no one party 
has won an absolute majority, interim president Roza Otunbaeva will ask one of 
them to form a coalition.

Clearly, if one party manages to forge a majority bloc in the interim, the 
president will have little choice but to give it the nod, so the five parties 
which won parliamentary seats are already deep in negotiations. 

There are two main coalition options, one of which would involve Ata-Jurt, 
which emerged slightly ahead of the pack with nearly nine per cent of the vote, 
giving it 28 of the 120 seats in parliament. 

Ata-Jurt is a new political force that won significant support in the south of 
Kyrgyzstan, and describes itself as a party of “national patriots” while 
rejecting accusations that it is holds ethnic Kyrgyz supremacist views.

The second possibility is a bloc allying the Social Democratic Party with 
Ata-Meken, which came second and fifth with 26 and 18 seats, respectively. Both 
parties are closely associated with the interim administration that replaced 
ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiev in April, and have members in key positions 
of power around the country.

To get the required absolute majority, either grouping will have to make up the 
numbers by winning over one or both of the remaining parties – the third-placed 
Ar-Namys with its 25 seats, and the newer Respublika with 23. 

Leading political analyst Mars Sariev predicts a contest that pits a coalition 
consisting of Ata-Jurt and Ar-Namys against the Social Democrats and Ata-Meken. 
“Both these groups will fight to get Respublika as they need a third party to 
form a government,” he said. 

Political analyst Valentin Bogatyrev says that apart from the two obvious 
blocs, “other, quite exotic coalitions are possible, as are coalitions of more 
than three parties providing they can agree on the distribution of jobs”. 

There is also a possibility, he says, that some parties will opt out of the 
coalition-building process entirely so as avoid being associated with the 
difficult business of government, especially over the winter period when 
Kyrgyzstan often experiences energy shortages.

“Instead, they’ll build themselves up for the presidential election which will 
take place at the end of 2011,” he said.

The multiplicity of choices results from a constitution passed by national 
referendum in June designed to create greater democracy. It gave parliament 
more powers and diluted those of the president, to prevent the slide towards 
authoritarian rule that Kyrgyzstan experienced under Bakiev and his predecessor 
Askar Akaev. 

With authority now residing in the legislature, no governing party able to fix 
the result in its favour, and the number of seats expanded from 90 to 120, the 
election drew an unprecedented field of 29 competing parties. 

Political analyst Mars Sariev believes the election result means that 
Kyrgyzstan’s major political forces are now inside parliament rather than 
outside it, and that could be a good thing for stability. While some have 
accused Ata-Jurt of being a stalking-horse for Bakiev and seeking to engineer 
his return from exile in Belarus – something the party denies – Sariev does not 
see this happening.

“This configuration accurately reflects the true political spectrum in 
Kyrgyzstan…. I don’t think those parties that didn’t make it into parliament 
are going to be able to rock the boat, because the main players that would 
really have the resources to do that have got in,” he said.

“These elite groups will now seek an informal arrangement; they will negotiate 
a consensus, a balance of their interests, and a division of the assets of 
government and finance. I don’t think there’s going to be a return by Bakiev.” 

Alexei Malashenko, a Central Asia expert with the Carnegie Centre in Moscow, 
said it was important for the elected parties to confine their arguments to the 
floor of the legislature.

“The party leaders are very ambitious. It’s going to be very difficult to reach 
compromises, but they must because if they don’t, it will be bad for everyone,” 
he said. “A power struggle is now under way, and if it takes place… within some 
kind of parliamentary format, that will be great. It will mean the difficult 
initial phase of parliamentarianism has been passed successfully.”

Talking about potential divisions in the political process, Malashenko said, “I 
don’t believe there’s going to be Kyrgyz nationalism, although that trend does 
exist and cannot be discounted. It’s also very important that no one tries to 
play the north-versus-south card.” 

For Bogatyrev, “the main question is how viable the new government will be. 
There could be points where a minister from one party refuses to work under a 
prime minister from another. That would be fatal for Kyrgyzstan given the state 
it’s in at the moment.” 

Pavel Dyatlenko is a political analyst with the Polis Asia think-tank in 
Bishkek. Timur Toktonaliev is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kyrgyzstan.

This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central 
Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the 
European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and 
Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. 

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no 
way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign 
Ministry of Norway.

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