Uzbekistan frees US citizen accused of joining IMU, fighting in Afghanistan

TASHKENT (TCA) — Authorities in Uzbekistan have released a U.S. citizen who was detained on suspicion of joining a terrorist group and fighting alongside Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reported.

Zokir Aliev told RFE/RL on June 23 that he was released a day earlier but ordered not to leave Uzbekistan while investigations continue.

Aliev was detained on June 16, about an hour after he arrived in his native city of Qarshi in the southern Qashqadaryo region.

On June 18, the State Security Service stated that Aliev was detained on terrorism-related charges, alleging that Aliev joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 2000 and took part in attacks against Afghan armed forces and NATO-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Aliev told RFE/RL on June 23 that he had never been in Afghanistan and had never supported Islamic extremists.

He added that he had not seen his relatives in many years and decided to make the trip after President Shavkat Mirziyoev called for the return of the Uzbeks who left the country in the years after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

According to Aliev, he entered Uzbekistan legally on a 90-day visa that he obtained at the Uzbek Embassy in the United States after receiving an official invitation from his relatives.

The IMU has been designated as a terrorist group and banned in countries including Uzbekistan, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, and Russia.

Aliev, 46, left Uzbekistan 25 years ago and works for a private tax-services company in the United States.

Sergey Kwan

TCA

Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
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Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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