Abstract: Ethnic Uzbeks carried out terrorist attacks in Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and New York City in 2017, making it clear radicalization in the Uzbek and Central Asian global diaspora is a growing global security concern. There has been an increase in Uzbek-language terrorist propaganda, and terrorist groups dislodged from Uzbekistan have built up significant operations in Syria. These groups are exploiting grievances over autocratic regimes and corruption at home to recruit Central Asians and support global terrorist agendas. Central Asian operatives trained in Syria have already returned back to their home region to plot attacks and may pose a wider threat to international security. 

Radicalization in the Uzbek and Central Asian global diaspora is becoming a growing threat to international security. In 2017, there were no fewer than four high-profile international terror attacks carried out by ethnic Uzbeks: the Islamic State-directed attack in the early hours of the new year on a nightclub in Istanbul, the St. Petersburg metro bombing in April, a truck attack in Stockholm later the same month, and a truck attack in Manhattan in September.

This article provides an outline of each of the four attacks before examining the wider context of Islamist militancy in Uzbekistan, where government repression of Islamists has resulted in the region becoming a net exporter of Islamist terrorism. At a time when Uzbek terrorist groups have built up significant operations in Syria, are exploiting grievances caused by autocracy and corruption at home, and are churning out propaganda in Uzbek, there are signs that Uzbeks and Central Asians are becoming the new shock troops of international terror.

The Four Attacks
The Istanbul Nightclub Attack
Early on New Year’s Day of 2017 in Istanbul, a lone gunman killed 39 revellers in the famous Reina nightclub on the banks of the Bosphorus. The attacker, a 33-year-old Tajik/Uzbek dual national named Abdulkadir Masharipov from a small town in Kyrgyzstan with a predominantly Uzbek population, was captured in the city two weeks later.1 Masharipov had been directed to launch the attack through the messaging app Telegram by a senior Islamic State operative in Raqqa, Syria.2 It was reported that he was aided by three other Uzbeks on the day of the attack and in the immediate aftermath.3 During the investigations leading up to his capture, security forces launched raids in five municipalities of Istanbul against Uzbek networks connected to the Islamic State.4

Much remains unknown about Masharipov’s path to terrorism. What is known is he attended university in the Uzbek town of Ferghana, at some point became radicalized, and attended an al-Qa`ida training camp in Afghanistan sometime after 2011 before switching allegiance to the Islamic State.5 At the time of the attack, he was subject to a national arrest warrant in Uzbekistan for terrorism activities, according to information provided to Interpol by Uzbekistan.6

The St. Petersburg Metro Attack 
On April 3, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a subway car between the Sennaya Ploshchad and Tekhnologichesky Institut metro stations in St. Petersburg, claiming the lives of 14 people. The same day, another bomb device was found by Russian authorities with the DNA of the same perpetrator. Authorities stated the attacker was Akbarzhon Jalilov, 22, an ethnic Uzbek with Russian nationality born in Kyrgyzstan and whose family lived in Uzbekistan’s Ferghana valley.7 Abror Azimov, who authorities accused of training Jalilov, was also a Kyrgyz-born Russian citizen, born in 1990.8

The attack took place on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin was in St. Petersburg to meet the Belarusian president.9 While no established terrorist group claimed the attack, a mysterious outfit claiming affiliation with al-Qa`ida called the Imam Shamil Battalion claimed it carried out the attacks on the direct orders of Ayman al-Zawahiri, without offering any evidence to corroborate its claim.10

The Stockholm Truck Attack 
On April, 7, 2017, a hijacked beer truck was driven into a crowd of shoppers in Stockholm, Sweden, killing four.11 Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT reported a bag of undetonated explosives was also found in the truck.12 Hours later, authorities arrested a 39-year-old Uzbek named Rakhmat Akilov who was born and grew up in the town of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, and had come to Sweden in 2014.13 Swedish authorities stated that Akilov had been denied asylum in 2016 but had not heeded the order to leave the country.14 Akilov was active on social media and followed a group on Facebook calling for the removal of the now-late Uzbek president Islam Karimov. Akilov’s Facebook page featured at least two propaganda videos linked to the Islamic State, one reportedly showing the aftermath of the Boston bombing.15

Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov subsequently stated Akilov had been on their radar for some time and had been recruited by “emissaries” of the Islamic State whilst away from Uzbekistan. He added that Akilov had been sharing terrorist propaganda videos over the internet with associates back in Uzbekistan “trying to induce them to commit acts of violence against representatives of public authority, leadership and law enforcement of Uzbekistan” as well as trying to recruit Uzbeks to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.16

The New York City Pickup Truck Attack 
On October 31, 2017, a pickup truck rammed into pedestrians and cyclists on a bicycle path near the World Trade Center in New York City, killing eight. Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old Uzbek national who allegedly carried out the attack, was taken into custody after being shot by police. He made clear his allegiance to the Islamic State in notes found near the truck. He told interrogators that he had started contemplating an attack the previous year. Saipov was allegedly inspired to carry out the attack by viewing Islamic State videos, including a message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to Muslims being killed in airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. A large number of Islamic State-related videos and pictures were also found on his phone.17 He followed almost exactly the instructions on how to launch vehicular attacks published in the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine the previous year.18

A police officer walks past the wreckage of a Home Depot pickup truck in New York City on November 1, 2017, the day after it was used in a terror attack. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Saipov moved to the United States in 2010 from the Uzbek capital of Tashkent through the green card lottery system.19 He married an Uzbek woman in 2013 and worked for periods as an Uber driver. No evidence has surfaced that Saipov sympathized with extremist groups before coming to the United States, and acquaintances from Uzbekistan described his family as not particularly religious. Saipov was a college graduate and had worked as an accountant at a hotel before moving to the United States.20 According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Saipov radicalized after immigrating to the country. Although Saipov was not himself the subject of a counterterrorism investigation, he had some connectivity to individuals subject to investigation, according to U.S. authorities.21 An Uzbek man who was under scrutiny as part of a terrorism investigation attended the same wedding as Saipov in Florida in 2015.22

Islamist Militancy in Uzbekistan 
The Context 
No evidence has emerged indicating that any of the ethnic Uzbek attackers profiled above carried out their attacks at the direction of Uzbek terrorist groups. But the attacks took place against a backdrop of a significant militant salafism in Uzbekistan, the presence of powerful Uzbek terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Syria, and the growth of Uzbek-language terrorist propaganda accessible to the country’s diaspora community around the world. As noted above, the alleged Stockholm attacker Akilov was animated by anger against the regime in Uzbekistan and had called for attacks in Uzbekistan over social media. The Istanbul attacker Masharipov appears to have also been radicalized inside Uzbekistan given the fact that he moved from his home country to Afghanistan in order to attend al-Qa`ida training camps.23 No information has come to light that Saipov, the alleged New York City attacker, had any connections with terrorist groups in Uzbekistan, but given the alleged presence of radicalized Uzbeks in his social circle, there is every chance he viewed Uzbek terrorist propaganda during his apparent radicalization on U.S. soil.24

A recent investigation into a cluster of Uzbek extremists in New York is instructive. In 2014, the FBI launched a major counterterrorism investigation into a group of Uzbek and Central Asian extremists based in Brooklyn who authorities say were planning to travel to join the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Before their arrest in February 2015, the plotters, who were active on Uzbek-language websites supportive of the Islamic State, discussed launching an attack on Coney Island and shooting U.S. President Barack Obama. Five Uzbeks and a Kazakh national have now been charged in connection with the case, and there have been several guilty pleas.25

In the last three decades, repressive tactics by Uzbekistan’s authoritarian regime have created a pressure-cooker environment in the country, which has both fueled violent extremists and pushed them out of the country. In the last decade, many thousands of Uzbek and Central Asian terrorists were based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and built up ties with terrorist groups there, but it is Syria now that serves as the major hub of Uzbek terrorist activity. According to an assessment by The Soufan Group published in October 2017, upwards of 5,000 Central Asian foreign fighters have traveled to Syria, including at least 1,500 Uzbeks, 1,300 Tajiks, over 500 from Kyrgyzstan, and as many as 400 from Turkmenistan.a

Historically, the two major Uzbek terrorist groups have been the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), whose main faction joined the Islamic State in 2014, and the al-Qa`ida-affiliated Islamic Jihad Union.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan 
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has its roots in an organization formed in 1991 by a former Uzbek paratrooper, Jumaboi Khojaev (Juma Namangani), and a religious scholar named Tahir Yuldashev with the aim of implementing sharia in their hometown of Namangan in the Ferghana Valley. Their Adolat (Justice) Party, which was outlawed by then Uzbek President Islam Karimov in 1992, and its leaders were forced to flee the country. In 1998, the group was renamed the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and started to establish bases in Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.26 Almost every ethnic group in the Central Asian region was “represented” in the IMU.27 In the decade after 9/11, the group built up a significant presence in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. It pledged allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and cooperated with the group. Failed attempts to overthrow the regime in Uzbekistan forced a large contingent of the group’s members to base themselves in Afghanistan The IMU also cooperated with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) to launch attacks on Pakistani security forces in the border region.28

In 2009, IMU co-founder Yuldashev was killed in a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan. His successor was also killed. Military operations by U.S., Pakistani, and Afghan militaries progressively degraded the organization and its leadership. By late 2013, the IMU claimed to have some 850 members in Afghanistan and a further 2,000 fighters in Pakistan, as well as others active elsewhere, including Central Asia, the Caucuses, Iran, and Syria. The U.S. Department of State estimated the IMU numbers at 500 or under in the late 2000s and early 2010s.29 b

In September 2014, after correctly claiming the Taliban were covering up the death of Mullah Omar,30 the IMU’s new leader, Uthman Ghazi, pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi, effectively dissolving the group into the Islamic State and its soon-to-be-formed Afghanistan/Pakistan wing, the Islamic State in Khorasan. A large number of IMU fighters who had congregated in Syria were subsumed into the Islamic State. As foreign fighters flooded into Syria, a significant number of IMU fighters relocated from Afghanistan/Pakistan to Syria, where they joined fresh recruits from Uzbekistan, particularly the Ferghana valley, where the IMU continued to recruit.31

By the time Ghazi was killed by Taliban fighters in Zabul in southern Afghanistan in December 2015,32 some of his fighters in Afghanistan/Pakistan had rejoined Taliban ranks after an ultimatum from the Taliban. Disagreements over the switch in bay`a resulted in discontent among clerics within the group.33 Several key clerics, including Abu Zar al-Burmi, denounced Ghazi’s decision to join the Islamic State and renewed their allegiance to the Taliban. They saw realigning with the Taliban and al-Qa`ida as key to the group’s survival and regeneration in the region. This spinoff of the IMU called itself as the Imam Bukhari Brigade (IBB) and received backing from al-Qa`ida.34

As well as trying to maintain a presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the IBB built up a growing presence in Syria. As was the case with another IMU spinoff, the Katibat Tawhid wal Jihod (KTJ), the IBB affiliated itself with al-Qa`ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and fought shoulder to shoulder with the Uighur Chinese Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), another group closely aligned with al-Qa`ida.35 Analyst Jacob Zenn estimated that as of mid-2016 “around 80 percent of all Central Asian fighters in Syria belonged to the KTJ, IBB or other al-Qa`ida-aligned groups.” According to Zenn, after Russia launched a major air campaign in Syria, the KTJ and IBB upped their Russian-language propaganda efforts and sought revenge against Russia.36

The Islamic Jihad Union 
The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) broke away from the IMU in 2002 after a faction of IMU leaders, including the IJU’s founder Najmiddin Jalolov, disagreed with the group’s decision not to resume attacks in Uzbekistan.37 For years, it has been closely aligned with al-Qa`ida, which has been active in Paktika, Paktia, and Nangarhar in Afghanistan as well as other provinces.38 In 2004, the IJU carried out a wave of bombing attacks in Uzbekistan, including against the U.S. embassy.39 The attacks appear to have been coordinated from Kazakhstan by its local leader there, Jakshibek Biymurzayev.40 During the 2000s, the group built up a presence in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where it trained a group of German recruits and directed them to launch attacks in Germany. In 2007, German police thwarted their plot targeting U.S. servicemen at the Ramstein Air Force base, its first and only major plot to date against the West.41

Thereafter, the IJU mostly focused on attacks in Afghanistan, for which it cooperated closely with the Haqqani group. It continued to build up Turkish-language propaganda efforts and recruited a number of Turkish nationals into its ranks. Between 2008 and 2011, ISAF (the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan) conducted raids against IJU in which it killed fighters from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, illustrating the pan-Central Asian nature of the group’s recruitment efforts.42 In March 2008, another German recruit, Cuneyt Çiftçi, carried out a suicide bombing of a U.S. base in Afghanistan.43 The IJU leader Jalolov was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2009.44 In 2014, the U.S. State Department estimated the IJU’s numbers as no more than 200.45

In the last several years, Afghanistan has remained the main base of IJU operations.46 Earlier this year, the group released videos showing its militants in the midst of heavy combat with Afghan security forces in the eastern Afghanistan and one particular video showing its “special forces,” trained possibly in Afghanistan, in higher visual and audio quality than used in its previous propaganda videos. The group has also built up a presence in Syria, although its existence there is less significant than the IBB. Another active salafi fighting group in Syria, Ansar Jihad is led by Abu Omar al-Turkistani who was a former commander in the ranks of IJU between 2011 and 2015, who traveled to Syria after 2015.47

The Threat from Returning Foreign Fighters 
There has already been blowback from the presence of Central Asian fighters in Syria. Kyrgyz authorities reportedly thwarted plots by in 2013 and 2017 by Central Asian returnees from Syria aimed at attacking Independence Day celebrations and in the case of the 2013 plot also the Shangai Cooperation Organization Summit of that year in Bishkek.48 Both plans involved the use of explosives49 in order to ensure the highest number of causalities in crowded gatherings. Even though both plots were thwarted, they illustrated how returning foreign fighters could pose serious challenges to the countries in the region. According to authorities, the 2013 plot involved two Kyrgyz nationals and a Kazakh who were members of the IJU.50 The 2017 plot was thwarted after the cell was exposed with the capture of a returning KTJ militant from Syria. Security officials subsequently learned the names of the other four people in the cell.51 c There are indications that Central Asian groups based in Syria are cooperating when it comes to overseas attack planning. In August 2016, the Syria-based leadership of the same group was accused of helping instigate a vehicular suicide bombing attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek by a Tajik Uighur who had been recruited into the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (later rebranded the TIP).52

The Drivers of Radicalization in Uzbekistan and Central Asia 
The roots of militant salafism in Uzbekistan and Central Asia can be traced back to the Afghan jihad. Uzbek and Central Asian mujahideen traveled to fight in the Afghan jihad and returned home, radicalizing others within their communities. Soviet repression against religious activity fueled salafi movements and drove them underground. Some youngsters were attracted to these salafi groups out of anger against these restrictions and their own lack of a basic religious education. Traditional schools had been shuttered or put under rigid state control, leaving the field open to Salafi clerics returning from their studies in Saudi Arabia and preaching clandestinely.53

The growth of fundamentalism was compounded by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Central Asian countries experienced significant economic, political, and social difficulties. Distrust of the political system and state mechanisms as well as the lack of equal economic and political opportunities for the people to live a ‘decent life’ further contributed to a sense of marginalization and radicalization. According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2016 of 176 countries and territories (with the 176th country being the worst), Kazakhstan was ranked 131st, Kyrgyzstan 136th, Tajikistan 151st, Turkmenistan 154th, and Uzbekistan 156th.54 State repression of dissidents—including Islamists—allegedly involving the use of torture and other improper investigative methods have further fueled radicalization. Therefore, while governments have endeavored to remove Islamists as an existential threat, one consequence has been the export of terrorism out of the country.

A Look Ahead
Radicalized Central Asians pose a growing international security threat. As the thwarted plots in Kyrgyzstan illustrated, foreign fighters from the region trained in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria will continue to pose not just a threat to Central Asian states but also the wider international community.

The attacks in Istanbul, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and New York City will unlikely be the last manifestation of radicalization in the Uzbek diaspora community. In particular, the recent New York City attack illustrated that there are strong anti-Western feelings among a small portion of Uzbek diaspora communities stoked by coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria. In the coming months, other issues such as the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may also become a factor, as could rising anti-refugee discourse and Islamophobia.     CTC

Dr. Goktug Sonmez is a visiting researcher in security studies at the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) in Ankara, Turkey, and a faculty member in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Necmettin Erbakan University in Konya, Turkey. He has a Ph.D. in politics and international studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London and a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics. Follow @GoktugSonmez

Substantive Notes
[a] In 2015, the International Crisis Group estimated around 2,000 Central Asian foreign fighters were in Syria. Richard Barrett, “Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees,” The Soufan Center, October 2017; Reid Standish, “Shadow Boxing With the Islamic State in Central Asia,” Foreign Policy, February 6, 2015.

[b] The U.S. State Department estimated the number of IMU members at around 500 in 2006 and around 300-400 in 2013. See Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, “Jihadist Threat is Not As Big As You Think,” CNN, September 29, 2014; “Country Reports on Terrorism 2006,” U.S. Department of State, April 30, 2007; and “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013,” U.S. Department of State, April 2014.

[c] KTJ is also apparently known by the name Jamaat Tawhid Wal Jihad. Catherine Putz, “3 Convicted for Chinese Embassy Attack in Bishkek,” Diplomat, June 30, 2017.

[1] Daren Butler, “Turkey says captures nightclub attacker who acted for Islamic State,” Reuters, January 16, 2017; Goktug Sonmez, “Reina Attack, Masharipov, and Radicalization in Central Asia,” ORSAM Review of Regional Affairs 56 (2017); “Istanbul: ISIL claims responsibility for Reina attack,” Al Jazeera, January 2, 2017; “Abdulkadir Masharipov: Who is Istanbul gun attack suspect?”BBC News, January 7, 2017; “Istanbul nightclub attacker says was directed by Islamic State,” Reuters, January 18, 2017; “ISIL militants in Raqqa sent footage from inside nightclub attacked by Masharipov,” Hurriyet Daily News, January 19, 2017. See also Angela Dewan and Emily Smith, “Istanbul nightclub attack suspect confesses, governor says,” CNN, January 17, 2017.

[2] “I don’t regret attacking Istanbul’s Reina: ISIL militant Masharipov,” Hurriyet Daily News, January 20, 2017.

[3] “Reina saldırganının ilk sözü bu olmus!” Hurriyet Daily News, January 1, 2017.

[4] Toygun Atilla, “Reina saldırganı teröristle ilgili yeni detaylar,” Hurriyet Daily News, January 17, 2017.

[5] Sonmez.

[6] Ely Karmon, “Central Asian Jihadists in the Front Line,” Perspectives on Terrorism 11:4 (2017).

[7] Tim Lister, Euan McKirdy, and Angela Dewan, “St. Petersburg bombing carried out by ‘suicide’ attacker,” CNN, April 4, 2017; “Kyrgyz-born suspect in St. Petersburg bombing ‘had links to radical Islamists,’” Reuters, April 4, 2017.

[8] “St. Petersburg attack: What we know,” BBC, April 19, 2017.

[9] Ivan Nechepurenko and Neil MacFarquhar, “St. Petersburg Metro Attack Included Many Students Among Victims,” New York Times, April 5, 2017.

[10] “St. Petersburg bombing: Group says al-Qaeda chief ordered attack,” BBC, April 25, 2017.

[11] Per Nyberg, Sarah Chiplin, and Angela Dewan, “Stockholm attack: Suspect has ISIS sympathies,” CNN, April 9, 2017.

[12] Lizzie Dearden, “Stockholm attack: ‘Homemade bomb’ found in lorry used to kill at least four people in Sweden,” Independent, April 8, 2017.

[13] Sewell Chan, “Suspect in Stockholm Attack Was an ISIS Recruit, Uzbek Official Says,” New York Times, April 14, 2017.

[14] “Everything we know so far about the Stockholm terror attack,” Daily Telegraph, April 4, 2017; Christina Anderson, “Stockholm Suspect Was Denied Asylum and Told to Leave in ’16,” New York Times, April 9, 2017.

[15] Samuel Osborne, “Stockholm suspect Rakhmat Akilov ‘exchanged Whatsapp messages with Isis supporter before and after attack,’” Independent, April 10, 2017; “Stockholm attack: Who is suspect Rakhmat Akilov?” BBC, April 10, 2017; Johan Sennero, Philip O’Connor, and Nerijus Adomaitis, “Stockholm attack suspect is Uzbek denied residency in Sweden,” Reuters, April 9, 2017.

[16] Chan; “West ‘warned’ about Stockholm truck attack suspect Rakhmat Akilov,” Sky News, April 14, 2017.

[17] “New York truck attack: Sayfullo Saipov pleads not guilty,” BBC, November 28, 2017; “Complaint: United States vs. Sayfullo Saipov,” United States Southern District of New York, November 1, 2017; Shimon Prokupecz, Eric Levenson, Brynn Gingras, and Steve Almasy, “Note found near truck claims Manhattan attack done for ISIS, source says,” CNN, November 6, 2017; Alex Ward, Jen Kirby, and Zeeshan Aleem, “New York City terror attack: what we know so far,” Vox, November 1, 2017; Benjamin Mueller, William Rashbaum, Al Baker, and Adam Goldman, “Prosecutors Describe Driver’s Plan to Kill in Manhattan Terror Attack,” New York Times, November 1, 2017; Corey Kilgannon and Joseph Goldstein, “Sayfullo Saipov, the Suspect in the New York Terror Attack, and His Past,” New York Times, October 31, 2017; “Truck attack in New York City: what we know so far,” Guardian, November 1, 2017.

[18] Rukmini Callimachi, “What New York Attack Suspect’s Words Say About ISIS Ties,” New York Times, November 2, 2017.

[19] Ryan Stuyk, “The evolution of the diversity visa lottery program, in charts,” CNN, November 1, 2017.

[20] Aaron Katersky, John Margolin, Michele McPhee, and Brian Ross, “Feds interviewed accused NYC truck attacker in 2015 about possible terror ties,” ABC News, November 1, 2017.

[21] Holly Yan and Dakin Andone, “Who is New York terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov?” CNN, November 2, 2017.

[22] Rukmini Callimachi, Benjamin Mueller, Michael Schwirtz, and Adam Goldman, “Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Lower Manhattan Terrorist Attack,” New York Times, November 2, 2017.

[23] Karmon.

[24] Prokupecz, Levenson, Gingras, and Almasy; “New York City terror attack: what we know so far;” Mueller, Rashbaum, Baker, and Goldman; Kilgannon and Goldstein.

[25] “Fifth Defendant Charged with Attempt and Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIL,” FBI, June 11, 2015; Alan Feuer, “Sixth Man Charged with Supporting ISIS in Brooklyn Case,” New York Times, May 11, 2016; Liz Robbins, “After Terror Attack, Uzbek Community Faces Unwanted Attention Again,” New York Times, November 6, 2017; Ed Payne, Catherine Shoichet, and Ray Sanchez, “3 men try to join ISIS: Here’s what we know,” CNN, February, 26, 2015; Marc Santora and Stephanie Clifford, “3 Brooklyn Men Accused of Plot to Aid ISIS’ Fight,” New York Times, February 25, 2015; Rich Schapiro, John Marzulli, Edgar Sandoval, and Corky Siemaszko, “Brooklyn men who wanted to join ISIS had plans to shoot President Obama, bomb Coney Island: FBI,” New York Daily News, February 26, 2015; Trevor Aaronson, “Long Before The New York Attack, FBI Agents Were Targetıng Uzbek Immıgrants,” Intercept, November 2, 2017.

[26] Einar Wigen, “Islamic Jihad Union: al-Qaida’s Key to the Turkic World?” Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, February 23, 2009; Douglas Green, “Terrorism in Central Asia: Will Al-Qaeda take control over Uzbek terror movement?” Times of Central Asia, June 4, 2016.

[27 Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), p. 175.

[28] Jeremy Binnie and Joanna Wright, “The Evolving Role of Uzbek–led Fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” CTC Sentinel 2:8 (2009).

[29] “Terrorist Organizations: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” Australian National Security, Australian Government; Hekmatullah Azamy, “Will the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) Trade the Taliban for ISIS?” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analysis 7:6 (2015), pp. 30-35.

[30] Jacob Zenn, “The IMU is extinct: what next for Central Asia’s jihadis?” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, May 3, 2016.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Nathaniel Barr, “Wilayat Khorasan Stumbles in Afghanistan,” Terrorism Monitor 14:5 (2016); Zenn, “The IMU is extinct: what next for Central Asia’s jihadis?”

[33] Jacob Zenn, “Abu Zar and Al Qaeda’s presence in Central Asia,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, January 16, 2017; Bill Roggio, “Former IMU cleric latest to denounce Islamic State,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 30, 2016.

[34] Zenn, “Abu Zar and Al Qaeda’s presence in Central Asia.”

[35] Green; Sebastiano Mori and Leonardo Taccetti,”Rising Extremism in Central Asia? Stability in the Heartland for a Secure Eurasia,” European Institute for Asian Studies Briefing Paper, February 2016.

[36] Zenn, “The IMU is extinct: what next for Central Asia’s jihadis?”

[37] Binnie and Wright.

[38] Bill Roggio, “‘Foreign fighter’ networks targeted in Nangarhar, Paktia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 23, 2010

[39] Wigen; Brian Kalman, “Afghanistan 2.0. Will Uzbekistan Survive the Death of President Islam Karimov?” Global Research, September 19, 2016.

[40] For a brief biography, see Duncan Fitz, Thomas M. Sanderson, and Sung In Marshall, “Central Asian Militancy: A Primary Source Examintion,” CSIS Transnational Threats Project, May 2014, pp. 22-23.

[41] Wigen; Fitz, Sanderson, and Marshall.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Wigen; Fitz, Sanderson, and Marshall.

[44] Yassin Musharbash, “Jihad Leader Reported Killed in US Drone Attack,” Spiegel Online, September 18, 2009.

[45] “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013.”

[46] Zenn, “Abu Zar and Al Qaeda’s presence in Central Asia.”

[47] Caleb Weiss, “Uighur jihadist fought in Afghanistan, killed in Syria,” FDD’s Long War Journal, February 14, 2017. See also Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Islamic Jihad Union showcases ‘special forces’ training camp,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 31, 2017; Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Al Qaeda-linked Uzbek groups advertise operations in Afghanistan,” FDD’s Long War Journal, February 22, 2017; Caleb Weiss, “Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group trains in Syria,” FDD’s Long War Journal, March 17, 2017; “Rise of the Islamic Jihad Union,” SITE Intel; Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Islamic Jihad Union details its involvement in Taliban’s Azm offensive,” FDD’s Long War Journal, July 25, 2015; “Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 – Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Islamic Jihad Union,” RefWorld, April 30, 2014; Thomas Joscelyn, “Islamic Jihad Union participated in siege of Kunduz,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 3, 2015; “Central Asian Involvement in the Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Drivers and Responses,” USAID, May 4, 2015.

[48] Jacob Zenn, “Afghan and Syrian Links to Central Asian Jihadism,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, October 29, 2013; “The group preparing terrorist attack for the Independence Day of Kyrgyzstan liquidated near Bishkek,” BNews, August 29, 2017; Erkin Kamalov, “Kyrgyzstan thwarted Independence Day terrorist plot,” central.asia-news.com, September 12, 2017.

[49] Kamalov, “Kyrgyzstan thwarted Independence Day terrorist plot;” Erlan Karine, “Central Asia: Facing Radical Islam,” Russie.Nei.Visions 98, IFRI, February 2017.

[50] Jacob Zenn, “Kyrgyzstan Increasingly Vulnerable to Militant Islamism,” The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, March 5, 2014; Zenn, “Afghan and Syrian Links to Central Asian Jihadism.”

[51] Kamalov.

[52] Karine; Catherine Putz, “3 Convicted for Chinese Embassy Attack in Bishkek,” Diplomat, June 30, 2017.

[53] Galym Zhussipbek, “Religious Radicalism in Central Asia,” Rethink Paper 12, October 2013, pp. 3-4.

[54] “Corruption Perceptions Index 2016,” Transparency International, January 25, 2017.

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