Federal authorities in Idaho have arrested an Uzbek man on suspicion of conspiring with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a Washington-designated terrorist group, and providing the organization with bomb-making training.
The arrest of Fazliddin Kurbanov, 30, comes only weeks after news emerged that the alleged Boston Marathon bombers hailed from the former Soviet Union. It is likely to fuel growing concerns in the United States about terror threats emanating from the ex-Soviet states, which regional leaders are already eager to exaggerate to justify their widespread repression against followers of Islam.
Some media in Uzbekistan have seized the opportunity to link Kurbanov to refugees who found asylum in Idaho after Uzbek authorities opened fire on unarmed civilian protestors in the eastern town of Andijan in 2005. Tashkent has long alleged it was battling Islamic militants that day and has sought to tar the refugees as radicals. But the Uzbek media attempts to make a connection are extremely tenuous.
The Associated Press reports that Kurbanov was arrested May 16 in Boise after a grand jury charged him with "conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization," "conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists," and "possession of an unregistered explosive device." The indictment alleges that Kurbanov provided money and computer software to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) "to be used in preparation for and in carrying out an offense involving the use of a weapon of mass destruction."
Washington designated the IMU a terrorist organization in September 2000. The Taliban-allied IMU seeks to overthrow the regime of dictator Islam Karimov, but most of its operations in recent years have been carried out in Afghanistan and Pakistan and it has been increasingly targeted by NATO forces.
A separate federal grand jury in Utah also charged Kurbanov with distributing information about explosives, bombs and weapons of mass destruction, the AP said.
Authorities did not specify whether Kurbanov allegedly conspired to carry out attacks on US soil, nor did they name his co-conspirators. It is unclear if Kurbanov was directly in contact with IMU representatives outside the United States.
Last year, in an apparently unrelated case, an Uzbek man working illegally in an Alabama shopping mall was sentenced to 15 years for plotting to kill President Barack Obama. Ulugbek Kodirov, 22 at the time, had been “radicalized by the propaganda and lies on the Internet,” a prosecutor said.
Kurbanov resided in the US legally. It is unclear whether he is a member of the tiny Andijan refugee community in Idaho. Nevertheless, the Tashkent-based 12news.uz website seized the opportunity to mention that out of 439 people who fled Uzbekistan after the Andijan massacre in May 2005, 60 settled in Idaho. Ten have since returned to Uzbekistan.