On August 6th, the Pakistan-based jihadist organization Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, previously covered here, released a video of its leader Usmon Ghazi and several associates swearing loyalty to Islamic State and becoming part of the Khorasan state. The announcement comes in the wake of the Taliban admitting that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar was killed two years earlier. In September 2014, Ghazi had officially stated that the IMU was siding with the Islamic State, yet withheld direct allegiance at that time.
Earlier this year, an Uzbek leader of a cell claiming to be part of the IMU, Sadullah Urgenji, stated that his group was changing their affiliation from the Afghan Taliban to Islamic State due to the failure of Mullah Omar to make an appearance after thirteen years.
The change of allegiance to Islamic State is, in light of Mullah Omar’s death, unsurprising, though notable for a group that has traditionally been strong allies of both Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Islamic State has repeatedly attempted to turn groups formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda to their own side, particularly in Central Asia. which positions them to take advantage of the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death. This is particularly the case since Islamic State had already used rumors of Omar’s death as a recruiting tactic. With recent events, it is very likely that the Taliban were keeping the news of Mullah Omar’s death secret in order to prevent groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan from leaving the Taliban fold. Having now been caught covering up Omar’s death however, the Taliban is likely to see that effort backfire.