Uzbekistan has shown a particular vulnerability to terrorism since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the late 1990s, Uzbekistan began battling a low-intensity insurgency. In February 1999, a series of explosions in Tashkent left a reported 16-28 killed and hundreds more wounded. The Karimov government responded with wide-scale arrests of political dissidents in a telling display of lingering Soviet-style tactics. In April 1999, Karimov accused Mohammed Solikh, a former presidential candidate and head of the banned Erk Pary, of masterminding the plot along with Tohir Yuldashev (former leader of the Adolat social movement) and the Taliban. The first trial of 22 suspects resulted in six death sentences. In 2000 Yuldashev and Jama Namanganiy (leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) recieved death sentences in absentia, and Solikh recieved a 15 year prison sentence.
Early in the following decade, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) launched a number of small, cross-border raids. The IMU in summer 2001 allied itself with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, where most IMU fighters were then based, and subsequently engaged U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, the IMU appears to have become less active in Uzbekistan. However, terrorist bombings blamed on the IMU and splinter groups have occurred sporadically, including multiple, simultaneous 1999 attacks in Tashkent that destroyed a portion of the Ministry of Interior headquarters and narrowly missed President Karimov, and 2004 suicide bombings of the U.S. and Israeli Embassies in Tashkent. In late March 2004, a series of bombings and armed attacks left a reported 47 dead. President Islam Karimov asserted that the attacks were concerted attempts to overthrow the government.
The Uzbek government has considerably alienated its Muslim population since the end of Soviet control. As a result, many analysts have partly attributed the rise of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)-- re-named the Islamic Movement of Turkestan (IMT)-- in the mid to late 1990s, to government actions. The government's response to the terrorist attacks in March 2004 generated a wide negative reaction from the West. Nevertheless, Russia was more understanding, and in a move that suggested a burgeoning Uzbek role within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), facilitated the opening of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Centre (RATC) in Tashkent.
n May 2009, militants attacked a police check post near Khonobod in the Namangan region, injuring one police officer. In May 2009, a suicide operative detonated explosives in central Andijon near a police station, killing at least one police officer and injuring several bystanders. In September 2009, there was a shoot-out in Tashkent between government authorities and suspected extremists that resulted in several deaths. In November 2011, an explosion damaged a railway bridge in the south of Uzbekistan on the line connecting Termez and the town of Kurgan-Tyube in Tajikistan. Uzbek law enforcement authorities declared the explosion a terrorist act, but no one has claimed responsibility and the GOU has never brought anyone to justice.. No casualties were recorded as a result of the explosion.
In mid-June 2010, up to 100,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees fled from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan following ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan. The Government of Uzbekistan worked closely with international organizations to provide food and shelter to the refugees until they returned to Kyrgyzstan in late June.
In light of domestic and international threats, the government has implemented heightened security measures, such as establishing security checkpoints, restricting access to certain streets and buildings, and deporting nationals of suspect countries. Continued instability in southern Kyrgyzstan following the 2010 political and ethnic violence have raised tensions and led to substantially increased controls at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. In addition, border crossing points with both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, both borders of security concern for the GOU, are often closed for periods of time. Although the border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan is officially open to traffic, travel restrictions for the region remain in place. Uzbeks need permission from the National Security Service (NSS) to cross the border, and only select Afghans are allowed into Uzbekistan.
Andijan / Andijon / Andizhan - May 2005
Violence erupted in Andijan, Uzbekistan on May 13, 2005 after days of peaceful protests over the imprisonment of 23 local business leaders accused of Islamic extremism. The violent events on 13 May 2005 in the Uzbek city of Andijan were closely linked to a trial of 23 popular local businessmen. These 23 businessmen had been arrested during the summer of 2004 and charged with “extremism, fundamentalism and separatism”. On 11-12 May a number of male relatives of the defendants were detained and questioned by the National Security Service (SNB). Another group of 13 Andijan businessmen had been arrested on similar charges in the beginning of 2005, but their trial had not yet started. Gunmen in the city of Andijon attacked a police station, seized weapons and then stormed a prison, freeing members of a local Islamic organization accused by the government of extremism.
In the morning of 13 May, the attackers then gathered in Andijon's main square. Thousands of local residents also gathered in the square. During the day more and more people joined the meeting, and by the afternoon there was a large crowd at Babur Square and in the surrounding streets. Microphones were installed in the middle of the square at the podium of the Babur monument. People who addressed the crowd spoke about their problems of unemployment, poverty, corruption of local authorities, and injustice linked to the recent arrests and trials. It appears that a major reason that kept people on the square despite being repeatedly fired at by Uzbek security forces was that they were waiting for President Islam Karimov to “come, listen to [them] and solve [their] problems.” At around 1700-1800 hrs there were an estimated 10,000-15,000 protesters on the square. At this point security forces launched a major offensive on the square, attacking simultaneously from different sides. Panic mounted in the crowd: people thought they would be shot, and they gave up hope of President Karimov’s appearing in person. Shooting erupted between government forces and the insurgents, and a large but undetermined number of individuals were killed.
President Islam Karimov described the violence as an armed uprising, planned by Islamic militants linked to the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement. Witnesses, however, claim that Uzbeki troops opened fire on protestors indiscriminately, leaving up to 500 dead, as the Daily Times of Pakistan has reported. Andijan, a city in eastern Uzbekistan, is near the border separating Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. On May 14, BBC NEWS reported that approximately 6,000 people had fled to the border.
Reporting from Kyrgyzstan, Radio Free Europe quoted Kyrgyz interim President Kurmanbek Bakiev, as saying "This [the 12-13 May violence in Andijon] happened because of those [known as] the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and [members of the Islamist movement] Hizb ut-Tahrir.... In any case, this [violence] does not lead to a good life. I think, there should be peace. I don't support the views of those who want to establish a state under the rule of a religious body."
The Government of Uzbekistan, which put the death toll at 187, rejected European and U.S. calls for an independent international investigation. Unofficial death toll estimates range as high as 700 to 800. The government has not held anyone publicly accountable for the civilian casualties.
The law prohibits torture; however, police and the NSS routinely torture, beat, and otherwise mistreat detainees to obtain confessions or incriminating information. Police, prison officials, and the NSS allegedly used suffocation, electric shock, rape, and other sexual abuse; however, beating was the most commonly reported method of torture. Torture was common in prisons, pretrial facilities, and local police and security service precincts. Defendants in trials often claimed that their confessions, on which the prosecution based its cases, were extracted by torture. In February 2003, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture issued a report that concluded that torture or similar ill-treatment was systematic.
Authorities treated individuals suspected of extreme Islamist political sympathies, particularly alleged members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, more harshly than ordinary criminals, and there were credible reports that investigators subjected persons suspected of belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir to particularly severe interrogation in pretrial detention, in many cases resorting to torture. After trial, authorities reportedly used disciplinary and punitive measures, including torture, more often with prisoners convicted of extremism than with ordinary inmates. Local human rights workers reported that common criminals were often paid or otherwise induced by authorities to beat Hizb ut Tahrir members.
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