Ten on Trial in France for Funding al-Qaida Linked Uzbeks

• Category: Uzbekistan
PARIS (AFP) – Ten alleged members of a group that sent tens of thousands of euros to the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) went on trial in Paris on Monday on charges of financing terrorism.

The suspects, mainly of Turkish origin, are alleged to have collected funds in mosques in various French cities to send to the IMU between 2003 and 2008. They were detained in a 2008 sweep that included arrests in eastern France, The Netherlands and Germany.

The central figure in the group, Turkish-Dutch citizen Irfan Demirtas, has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest.

The trial is to conclude on December 19.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a militant Islamist group formed in 1991 by the Islamic ideologue Tahir Yuldashev, and former Soviet paratrooper Juma Namangani – both ethnic Uzbeks from the Fergana Valley. Its objective was to overthrow President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and to create an Islamic state under Sharia.

Operating out of bases in Tajikistan and Taliban-controlled areas of northern Afghanistan, the IMU launched a series of raids into southern Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000. However, in 2001 the IMU was largely destroyed while fighting alongside the Taliban against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Namangani was killed, and the IMU’s remaining fighters were dispersed. Yuldeshev and an unknown number of fighters escaped with remnants of the Taliban to Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Since then the IMU has reportedly opened training camps in Waziristan and is now involved with other groups attempting to overthrow the government of Pakistan.

Despite occasional proclamations from Yuldeshev, and rumours of a re-emergence under the name the Islamic Movement of Turkestan (IMT), there is no reliable evidence indicating that the IMU/IMT remains an operational force in Central Asia outside of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region.