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Tajikistan moves to fend off IMU infiltration
Authorities are conducting raids and anti-recruitment campaigns to counter the increased number of terrorists crossing the border.
By Dilafruz Nabiyeva
DUSHANBE – Tajik security services are working to foil terrorist acts that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is planning, and to ward off an increase in the number of suspected IMU operatives infiltrating Tajikistan from neighbouring countries, government officials say.
"According to our information, extremists are preparing a series of terrorist acts in Tajikistan," the Tajik Interior Ministry said in a statement. "In view of this, we have conducted special operations in different parts of Tajikistan to wipe out terrorist groups."
To counter the threat of a growing IMU presence on Tajik soil, the security services have cracked down on suspected IMU cells.
"Law enforcement carried out a special operation in Mastchoh District January 18 to wipe out an armed IMU group," Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimov said. "The operation resulted in nine extremists detained and one killed. One law enforcement officer was killed, too."
On January 19, a suspected IMU fighter blew himself up with a hand grenade rather than surrender to police in Istaravshan.
Apart from cracking down on the IMU, the Tajik security services are proactively waging a counter-recruiting campaign at the district level.
"We have set up a special working group of law enforcement officers, local government officials and district activists to conduct explanatory work among villagers, including parents of suspected IMU members," Ulfatov said.
Such "preventive conversations with relatives may help greatly in persuading those young men to give up their extremist plans and return to normal life," he said.
Learning about the infiltration
Security officials say they are tracking an upswing in IMU activity in various parts of Tajikistan.
In northern Tajikistan, for example, an estimated 100 IMU fighters have crossed into Tajik territory since December, and the infiltrators are not stopping in Sughd Oblast, which borders Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, the ministry noted.
"They are not all heading for Sughd Oblast alone; their goal is to destabilise all of Tajikistan, so they likely are scattered over different districts," the statement added.
The southern part of the country is not exempt from the infiltration. During a Security Council session that he chaired January 24, President Emomali Rakhmon noted that armed IMU supporters have also been slipping in from Afghanistan.
Of particular concern to counter-terrorist officials in southern Tajikistan are reports that IMU operatives have been moving into Khatlon Oblast, which, in the past, the IMU largely ignored.
For example, local law enforcement lately arrested six suspected IMU supporters in Kizil Nishon, a village in Khatlon Oblast, Abdulmumin Ulfatov, chairman of the Kabadiyan District administration, said January 28.
"That level of activity by extremist recruiters in Kabadiyan District is relatively recent," Ulfatov said.
The IMU hopes to conduct terrorist missions aimed at creating havoc ahead of Tajikistan's presidential election in November, security analysts say.
"The main goal of extremists is to destabilise the country," Shakhobiddin Ziyoyev, a military analyst, told Central Asia Online. "The situation in Tajikistan has been tense lately; and tensions are likely to grow further in the run-up to November's elections, which [extremists] will surely try using to their advantage."
That threat of destabilisation is largely the driving force behind the crackdown.
"We need to strengthen overall security in the country, as there are concerns, especially with regards to the growth of extremism," Rakhmon told the Security Council. "The law enforcement agencies should also increase their level of responsibility in terms of security the borders, providing overall security and increasing their professionalism."