U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman September 15, 2000 FACT SHEET: ISLAMIC MOVEMENT OF UZBEKISTAN The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is a coalition of Islamic militants from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian states who oppose the current Uzbek regime. They seek to overthrow the existing government by force and to establish an Islamic state in Uzbekistan. To this end, IMU leader Tohir Yuldashev has declared a "jihad" or "holy war" against the Government of Uzbekistan. The IMU was founded in 1996. Its members include individuals who fought in Tajikistan's 1992-97 civil war. Since early 1999, its activities have become more violent, to include bombings and kidnappings. Since the mid-1990's, IMU fighters have trained in camps in Afghanistan, some controlled by Usama Bin Laden. It receives assistance from the Taliban and other groups and individuals based in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The IMU has a clear record of terrorist activity including car bombings in Tashkent, which killed 16 people, and the seizure of numerous hostages, including four American mountain climbers in August. The Americans were able to escape after being held hostage for six days in August 2000. The main goal of the IMU is to topple the current government in Uzbekistan by creating domestic and regional instability. Such instability threatens important economic and commercial interests in the region. The United States actively supports the peace process in Tajikistan that ended the civil war there, a process the IMU opposes. The IMU is not the only group to oppose the current government of Uzbekistan. However, they are the only group that has resorted to terrorism to achieve their goals, the only group to actively threaten US interests, and the only group to have attacked American citizens. Our policy is cognizant of the difference between terrorism and legitimate opposition, and our designation of the IMU as a terrorist organization fully reflects this distinction. The United States supports the right of Uzbekistan to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity from the violent actions of the IMU, and commends the measures in the course of the current incursions to minimize casualties and ensure the protection of innocent civilians.