Brandon Martinez / Non-Aligned Media
Islam Karimov has ruled the land-locked nation of Uzbekistan, a country of 30 million people, since 1990: that’s 26 consecutive years. He is presently 78 years old. He rose to prominence in 1989 becoming the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan and was later elected president in sham elections in 1990.
The Central Asian strongman has been propped up by Russia and China, and even by the US and UK who cozied up to the communist dictator after 9/11, making him an ally in the “terror war” alongside Putin of Russia. The US leased the Karshi-Khanabad air base from the Uzbek government in order to launch some of its military operations in Afghanistan, a country neighbouring Uzbekistan, during the 2001 war.
Karimov’s regime has been credibly accused of a wide range of abuses, including grisly methods of torture and murder of political prisoners by boiling them alive. In 2005, Uzbek security forces dispelled a peaceful civilian protest by indiscriminately shooting at them, killing hundreds of people who were then, according to reports, disposed of in unmarked mass graves. The incident has since been dubbed the Andijan massacre.
In addition to torture and mass murder, Karimov has also been accused of utilizing false flag terrorism against his own population to discredit political opponents and, presumably, strengthen his grip on power. Ikrom Yakubov, a former major in the Uzbek National Security Service (SNB), made these allegations after leaving his position within the security services because of the intense corruption he encountered. After seeking asylum in Britain, he told interviewers that Karimov orchestrated a series of bombings in 2004 that were blamed on opposition Islamic political groups within the country. Uzbek authorities also tried to link the blasts to al-Qaeda, conveniently just as the “War on Terror” was kicked into high-gear. A 2008 Radio Free Europe article, authored by Jeffrey Donovan, reported:
“When I worked inside Karimov’s government, I’ve seen a lot of illegal things, terrible things, horrible things,” the 27-year-old Yakubov tells RFE/RL. “How they are creating accusations [against] people; how they are killing, murdering people, simple people, simple believers in Islam; how they are creating fear among the population.”
“I was also one of the [apparatchiks] — one of the parts of these terrible policies,” says Yakubov, who has been sharing his story with RFE/RL for the past two months.
Yakubov says Karimov directly ordered senior military officers to instruct troops to fire on protesters in the eastern city of Andijon in 2005, killing more than 1,500 people — twice as many as rights groups estimated. Karimov has repeatedly denied that charge.
Yakubov also accuses the Uzbek government of pursuing a policy of “false flag” terrorism by orchestrating attacks and then blaming them on Islamist militants in an effort to demonize the opposition and win foreign support.
According to Yakubov, the Uzbek government also engineered a plane crash in 2004 that killed United Nations official Richard Conroy.
… Accusations similar to Yakubov’s have been made by activists, dissidents, and critics, including Britain’s former ambassador to Tashkent, Craig Murray. But Yakubov’s position within the regime lends them greater credibility. “These are not fanciful allegations,” Murray tells RFE/RL. “These are things where the new evidence is adding to the picture of things that we pretty well already knew and had some evidence for.”
… In early 2002, Yakubov was promoted to head a special “information security” unit monitoring international organizations, dissidents, and the media for the National Security Council. He reported directly to Karimov. But two years later, Yakubov was fired after writing Security Council reports that criticized policy. His last report took issue with the official account of the bombings that killed 47 people in Tashkent and Bukhara in the spring of 2004.
The government blamed the explosions on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a U.S. State Department-designated terrorist group, and Hizb-ut Tahrir, an organization that eschews violence but seeks Islamic rule in Central Asia. Yakubov says that after speaking to an operational officer directly involved in the bombings, he realized that the government itself had prepared them.
Murray, then the British envoy in Tashkent, also reached the same conclusion. Murray physically inspected the Tashkent bombing sites shortly after the explosions — an episode recounted in his book, “Murder in Samarkand.”
“I reported that back to London — that I suspected these were ‘false flag’ bombing operations carried out by the Uzbek government in order to justify their clampdown and demonize the opposition,” says Murray, who was later sacked from the British Foreign Service. “What [Yakubov] is saying appears to back up the physical evidence which I personally witnessed on the ground. I think his information does appear to stand up.”
In a related charge, Yakubov says the regime itself has propped up many alleged extremist groups and their leaders, including Tahir Yuldash, the purported IMU leader, and Akram Yuldash, the alleged spiritual leader of Akramia, the group Uzbek authorities blamed for sparking the unrest in Andijon.
“Akram Yuldash, Tahir Yuldash — these are specially created men by SNB,” Yakubov says. “IMU also [was] created by SNB, according to the order of Karimov. Tahir Yuldash has a very close contact with Karimov, and Tahir Yuldash [carries out] the orders of Karimov.”
Yakubov adds that he has seen classified papers addressed to Karimov stating that Yuldash himself killed Juma Namangani, his predecessor as IMU leader, in order to take sole leadership of the organization. Namangani was reportedly killed in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led offensive to oust the Taliban in 2001, but his body has never been found.
… Yakubov has other allegations.
For example, he says the Uzbek government was behind the plane crash that killed UN development official Conroy in January 2004 — a suspicion also aired in Murray’s book. Yakubov says he spoke with the crash’s chief investigator, who said Conroy had information linking Uzbek authorities to drug trafficking.
He also says he has documents that back up that claim and also show that, through front companies, the Uzbek government is involved in trafficking women abroad for prostitution.
Another Radio Free Europe article from 2006, written by Gulnoza Saidazimova, voiced doubt over the “al-Qaeda did it” narrative concerning the 2004 attacks promoted by the Uzbek regime. She quoted an April 2004 article in The Economist which noted that blaming al-Qaeda was “convenient for the repressive Uzbekistan regime. It would divert attention from the fact that it has given Uzbekistan’s impoverished population plenty of reasons to turn violent. It could also help generate sympathy for Mr. Karimov’s regime, despite its appalling record on human rights and poor political and economic reform.”
The former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, not only held that the 2004 blasts were contrived by Karimov’s thugs in the security services, but also previous explosions in 1999, which were also blamed on Islamic dissident groups. In a 2002 letter to his superiors Murray wrote of the 1999 bombings:
I am not convinced, and nor is anyone else here I have spoken to, that the Tashkent bombs were anything to do with the IMU or Islamic terrorism. There are two prevalent theories – either it was the [Uzbek] government attempting to blame the opposition, or internal government faction fighting. To mention the Tashkent bombs as one of the Government’s legitimate security concerns would be considered risible by the audience.
Incidentally I would not be at all surprised to see more bombings of this nature in Tashkent shortly, to justify continued repression and try to take off some of the pressure for reform. Do I misremember or were not the Russians known or suspected to use the same tactic of falsely blaming the Chechens for bombs some time back?
Murray was later removed from his position as ambassador because of his sharp rebukes of the Uzbek regime. Murray apparently voices many of these charges in his 2006 memoir Murder in Samarkand.
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