June 23, 2018 / 10:32 AM / a year ago

Uzbek-born American denies militant links, probe to go on

TASHKENT (Reuters) - An Uzbek-born U.S. citizen detained in the Central Asian country on suspicion of belonging to an Islamist militant group on Saturday denied links to the movement after he was released by Uzbek authorities but told to report back to police.

Zokir Aliyev, 46, an American citizen since 2014, was detained on June 16 in the southern Qashqadaryo province by Uzbekistan’s state security service.

“I was told that... questioning will continue, but I can stay at home and visit a police station for questioning,” Aliyev told Reuters by telephone.

State security said via the state news agency UzA last week Aliyev had been on its wanted list since 2005 over his suspected affiliation to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a militant movement born in the 1990s out of an insurgency in the former Soviet republic.

IMU fighters later fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and the intelligence service told UzA they suspected Aliyev had trained there.

“But I wasn’t there (in Afghanistan) and there are documents to prove that,” Aliyev said.

“However, I did participate in some opposition activists’ meetings in Turkey in the early 1990s while I was a student there.”

According to what appears to be Aliyev’s Facebook page, which gives his name as Zokir Ali, he has lived in two small towns in Virginia and studied at the University of Nevada.

The U.S. embassy in Tashkent has declined to comment on his case citing privacy concerns.

Reporting by Mukhammadaharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Ros Russell

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