ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - An al Qaeda-linked Uzbek militant leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in Pakistan in a U.S. drone missile strike in August, Pakistani intelligence agency officials said on Friday.
Yuldashev, leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), was killed on August 27 in South Waziristan on the Afghan border, where he had been based for some years, they said.
Here are some fact about Yuldashev:
* Yuldashev first emerged in the late 1980s as the founder of the Adolat, or Justice, movement, a gang of young Muslim vigilantes meting out mediaeval punishment in Uzbekistan’s breathtakingly beautiful Ferghana Valley during the Soviet Union’s final days.
* Thieves and prostitutes would be seated on donkeys, face to tail, and paraded around town, others beaten with sticks or tied to poles for passersby to spit in their faces.
* Precursors to the Taliban, Adolat youths wearing green armbands would drag off any woman daring to wear a short skirt and shave her head.
* Yuldashev’s denouncements of post-Communist President Islam Karimov made him a wanted man, and he left to join like-minded Muslim militants fighting Tajikistan’s civil war in the 1990s.
* He later helped found the IMU, a motley crew including Kyrgyz, Tajiks and even some Uighurs from China’s restive Xinjiang province.
* Their goal was to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan and ultimately throughout Central Asia.
* Blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in 1999, Yuldashev was sentenced to death in absentia. By this time he is thought to have fled the region for the safe haven of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
* Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were enthusiastic about the IMU’s plans to Islamise Central Asia and the movement was welcomed into al Qaeda.
* Fighting on the Taliban’s side in Afghanistan’s civil war, the IMU boasted several thousand fighters. But its base near the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif was bombed by U.S. warplanes in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks and Yuldashev’s comrade-in-arms Juma Namangani was killed.
* Yuldashev is believed to have joined senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan, and is rumored to have led resistance to U.S. forces during the fierce fighting of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in the spring of 2002.
* Yuldashev’s next bolt hole was Pakistan’s Waziristan, where he and his gang won over many conservative Pashtun tribal people.
* Many Uzbeks settled down in Waziristan, learning the Pashto language, marrying and having children.
* Yuldashev shot to prominence in March 2004, when Pakistani forces surrounded his base in South Waziristan, but he escaped while his fighters mounted a fierce defense.
* Yuldashev recited the Quran very beautifully and was known as Qari Tahir. A qari is one who recites the Quran.
* A bearded Yuldashev, one end of his black turban draped over his shoulder, occasionally appeared in recruitment videos passionately exhorting his men in Uzbek and Arabic.
Writing by Robert Birsel