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IMU leader Usmon Odil killed
Obscure figure replaces Odil
By Shakar Saadi
MIRANSHAH – Usmon Odil, less than two years after taking over the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), has been killed, the IMU acknowledged on its website.
Odil and three colleagues were killed in Miranshah, North Waziristan, in April, the IMU said on its site, explaining it withheld news of his death until it could choose a replacement. The new IMU leader is the little-known Usman Ghazi.
A Pakistani security official in April had announced Odil’s death. Media reports at that time had claimed that Odil had been killed in an abandoned school in Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan Agency, along with four suspected militants, including some Central Asians.
“The whole IMU statement shows that they’re trying to put on a good face on a sorry business,” Dzhanongir Allakhverdiyev, a security analyst formerly employed by the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB), said.
The IMU recently has tried to rebrand itself as Islami Tehreek-e-Uzbekistan (ITU), largely because the group now operates primarily in Pakistan.
“The statement calls Usman Ghazi a strong and experienced leader, but nobody’s heard of him,” Allakhverdiyev said.
“Or the IMU calls him public enemy no. 2 for the Pakistani government, but that’s just an attempt to make the IMU sound important,” he said, citing the web site statement. “How many of them are left – a few dozen, maybe 200? These are shattered groups that lost their ability to influence events long ago. They’re seriously weakened.”
Odil himself, who succeeded the better-known Tahir Yuldashev, was an obscure figure, Allakhverdiyev said.
“In contrast to Yuldashev, who had a certain authority, Odil was recognised by few as the leader. During the year and a half he led the IMU, he made only two statements, neither of which said anything new,” he noted. “During that time, the IMU didn’t say anything special about itself. It turned into ordinary mercenaries ... that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Afghan Taliban never used.”
Ghazi won’t be able to increase the authority of the IMU, S. Khotib, a spokesman for the SNB counter-terrorism department, said.
“Odil and Ghazi are the same thing,” he said. “Unknown figures, second-rate men. If they’re leading the movement, it means simply nobody’s left. The majority of IMU members either quit or were killed.” The IMU also has major financial problems, Khotib said.
“They’ve got nowhere to train; they have no money for training members and buying weapons,” he said. “Their close friends at al-Qaeda are hardly enjoying the best of times now. Given that the IMU hasn’t done anything important recently, its authority is dwindling. Nobody’s listening to it.”
Even if Ghazi somehow increases the IMU’s clout, it won’t help the terrorist group, predicted Allakhverdiyev.
“That train already left the station,” he said. “Though it sounds strange, everything’s tied to money. No money, no movement. And nobody’s giving money to the IMU now.”
The IMU can’t survive on ideology alone, Khotib said. “It doesn’t have an ideology anymore. It might have, when Yuldashev was alive. Odil and Ghazi are just pawns. That’s why the IMU waited so long to announce Odil’s death.”
Zahir Shah contributed to this report