Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Central Asia: Dec ‘09/Jan ‘10

IWPR report on IMU said to contribute to better understanding of the shadowy rebel movement.
By IWPR

An IWPR report on analysts’ fears of renewed attacks by the exiled militant group the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU, has been welcomed by media and security representatives for the light it shed on an area that is difficult to report.

For its special report Is Uzbek Guerrilla Force Planning Homecoming?, published in November, IWPR interviewed leading security and religious experts in the region about the security threat posed by the group.

Experts agreed that last year’s sporadic outbreaks of violence in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in particular made renewed insurgent activity possible. But they said that for the moment, this would not be on a scale that Central Asian governments could not handle, and the IMU lacked a substantial following in the region.

The article followed reports that the organisation had regrouped in northern Afghanistan close to the border with Tajikistan. That sparked fears that the IMU could be positioned to mount a repeat of incursions it launched in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan a decade ago.

Information that the IMU was re-grouping came after the death of its leader Tohir Yoldash was reported. The IMU’s future was cast into doubt by reports that Yoldash had been wounded in a United States rocket attack on August 27 and died shortly afterwards. Pakistani intelligence sources confirmed his death, and it appeared that, like his ally Baitullah Mehsud, killed in a similar manner earlier that month, the IMU leader actually was dead.

Readers from a range of backgrounds said IWPR’s special report contributed to a better understanding of the IMU development.

Hurshed Niyozov, the editor of the Tajik newspaper Faraj, told IWPR the report stood out compared to those of the national press for being informative, “The majority of the information published by journalists working for local media on such events are just news stories mostly citing statistics and that’s it.”

An Uzbek journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, said the IWPR report covered an issue that was very difficult to report because it was not easy to get information directly from members of the IMU.

The journalist said the description of the current state of the IMU as one that has been transformed from a home-grown force of Uzbeks into a large group of foreign mercenaries was accurate.

A former Kyrgyz security officer who withheld his name said this type of report could be useful for security experts making their own assessment of the security situation in the region.

He said the strength of the report was that it presented the views of leading experts whose knowledge would complement information from the security service’s own sources.

“This is very important information providing analysis from experts’ point of view,” he said.

The officer said the report will be “noticed by certain circles among security service personnel and taken into account when they compile their analytical reports and make conclusions”.

More IWPR's Global Voices