Central Asia’s proscribed terrorist organisation, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), has planned a chain of suicide attacks in Pakistan, a top intelligence official exclusively told Central Asia Online.

“Our internal security wing … revealed that a large number of IMU militants have fled [North Waziristan] and reportedly entered Balochistan to hide among traders, merchants and labourers in Zhob and adjacent areas in the province,” Naveed Khalid, a senior intelligence official based in Islamabad, said.

“We have intercepted several calls … which disclosed that the IMU has provided suicide bombers to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)-linked militants in Balochistan and they had planned new attacks on their targets,” he said.

Efforts to stamp out IMU, other groups

The government is working to resolve the problem.

“Prime Minister [Mian Muhammad] Nawaz Sharif already had directed all the agencies to extend full co-operation to the provincial government to maintain law and order and to meet the new security challenges,” Balochistan Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said. “Our forces are highly able to combat foreign terrorists in the region.”

“All law enforcement agencies have been directed to keep an eye on those areas [containing a number of Tajiks and Uzbeks] to foil any expected terrorist activity,” he said. “We have also deployed additional troops on the entry points in Balochistan close to … Waziristan, and our bordering districts are under strict surveillance to ensure the checking of each individual crossing into the province.”

The government is also using media to solicit help from the public. Balochistan newspapers on June 18 published a story advising the public to be aware of its surroundings and asking it to inform the government of suspicious activities. The media outreach effort included publication of numbers that the public could call: 9203360 (81-9203360 if the caller is not in Quetta); or 15 or 1101, nationwide police help lines.

“The government must not ignore the reality that, to eradicate the menace of terrorism and extremism from its soil, it should also acquire the support of local people,” Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood said. “These steps will help eliminate insurgents’ safe havens and bring positive results to peace agendas.”

IMU regrouping for attacks

The IMU is considered a legitimate security threat because even though the group predominantly is comprised of foreigners, they can blend in and conceal themselves in the more diverse parts of Balochistan.

“Quetta is a hub for Uzbeks and Tajiks, and thousands of these foreigners are living in and around the city,” Durrani told Central Asia Online.

The IMU has links to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jaish-ul-Islam, (JEI), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Jaish-ul-Omar (JeO), Khalid said.

More recently, the IMU is said to be forging a symbiotic relationship with the TTP, where the IMU supplies the muscle while the TTP provides shelter for the foreign militants. Officials foresee the likelihood in Balochistan of attacks similar to the June 9 Karachi airport siege, for which both the TTP and IMU claimed responsibility.

“The TTP and the IMU have long been collaborating with each other and conducting joint terrorist operations. … They have carried out several attacks in Balochistan, targeting security forces, [other] Muslims and top government officials,” Ahed Khan, an intelligence official, told Central Asia Online.