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ISIS’ New Top Recruiter Gulmurod Khalimov on US Most Wanted List: US offers $3 million reward for his capture

Khalimov, who is believed to operate from Syria, is driven by a radical Muslim ideology, say Analysts

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Gulmorod Khalimov is shown in an undated photo from a U.S. State Department poster obtained Aug. 30, 2016. Image source: VOA
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  • The Tajik commander’s increasingly visible role could expand IS operations beyond Syria and Iraq
  • Khalimov, 41, a former Tajik special forces colonel who trained in the U.S and Russia, is now head of armed units and in charge of military operations for IS
  • US accepted Khalimov and other members of his unit for training between 2003 and 2014, at the recommendation of Tajikistan’s government

September 6, 2016: Gulmurod Khalimov, a former Tajik military officer who is now the Islamic State group’s chief recruiter, has become one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. The United States is offering a $3 million reward for his capture.

Khalimov, 41, a former Tajik special forces colonel who trained in the U.S and Russia, is now head of armed units and in charge of military operations for IS, according to Western intelligence reports. After an airstrike last week killed Islamic State’s Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, analysts said Khalimov was elevated to serve as second in command to the overall IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“This further highlights the Islamic State’s leadership wishes for the group to be perceived as an entity in which people from anywhere in the world may fill important roles,” said Michael S. Smith, a counterterrorism adviser to members of the U.S Congress.

Khalimov, who is believed to operate from Syria, is driven by a radical Muslim ideology, analysts say.

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“In one of his video messages he blamed Tajik officials for suppressing religious freedoms, forcing Muslim men to shave their beards and removing veils from women’s heads,” Esfandiar Adineh, an analyst based in Dushanbe, told VOA.

New focus on Central Asia?

The Tajik commander’s increasingly visible role could expand IS operations beyond Syria and Iraq, experts say.

“With his capabilities and trainings, combined with increased pressure on IS in the Middle East, there is a faint possibility that he may look more toward creating problems in Central Asia in a desperate attempt to remain relevant,” said Ethan Wilensky Lanford, an expert on Countering Violent Extremism at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Central Asia has proven to be fertile recruiting ground for IS, whose ranks now include thousands of Asian fighters in Iraq and Syria. Russia has long been aware of the IS recruitment process and worries that a stronger IS presence in Central Asia would be a growing threat to Russian national security.

“His promotion is also strategically valuable as this can bolster [IS] foreign recruitment efforts,” Smith said of Khalimov. He is said to be the organizer of a radical group known as the Cyrillic Jihadists — Russian speakers who come from the former Soviet republics.

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“These fighters are very different from others in terms of discipline and military training, compared to their Arab and African counterparts,” said Salem al-Hammoud, an activist who fled to Turkey from the IS-controlled Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.

Islamic State’s leaders appoint the Central Asians to important posts, Hammoud says, “because they are tough and they do not sympathize with locals.” And since they do not mingle with other jihadists, he added, IS leaders view them as “a very reliable, resilient force.”

Khalimov is believed to be directing IS recruiting operations from Syria, analysts say.

A terrorist’s diary

An IS fighter from Turkey, Rashid Tugral, died in a battle in June, the extremist group said. In a diary he kept, which has been obtained by VOA, Tugral recalled that Khalimov interviewed him in Raqqa before he was accepted into Islamic State. “Most of jihadists were from Central Asia, so Khalimov asked most of his questions either in Russian or Tajiki [Dari],” Tugral wrote.

A highly trained veteran of Tajik government operations, Khalimov disappeared from Tajikistan in late April 2015 and reappeared a month later in an IS video slamming Russia and the U.S . His disdain for Americans and the West, he said, developed as a result of five counterterrorism training courses he took in the United States and Tajikistan, sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security and Anti-Terrorism Assistance program.

“Listen, you American pigs,” Khalimov said in Russian in the IS video. “I’ve been to the U.S. three times. I saw how you train soldiers to surround, attack and kill Muslims, in order to eradicate Islam.”

The U.S. accepted Khalimov and other members of his unit for training between 2003 and 2014, at the recommendation of Tajikistan’s government. A retired Tajik military officer who knew Khalimov told VOA “he was a very smart officer with a very good education in law,” but upon returning to Tajikistan, he became a vocal critic of both his own government and the U.S.

At first, Tajik leaders were stunned at his turnabout. “We were observing him and had an eye on him,” the country’s interior minister, Lieutenant-General Ramazan Rahimzadeh, said last year. No one expected “a family guy” with a senior position like Khalimov “to desert his job and family and seek his redemption by joining radical Muslim terrorists abroad,” the general added.

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After an investigation that followed Khalimov’s abrupt turnabout, Tajik authorities said last year that he was wanted for crimes including high treason and illegal participation in military actions abroad.

According to Reuters, military officers in Tajikistan have received text messages on their mobile phones signed by Khalimov, in which he promised to “congratulate” them on the 25th anniversary of the country’s independence — the former Soviet republic’s transition to independent statehood as the USSR collapsed in 1991 — to be celebrated this week in Tashkent and throughout the Central Asian state. (VOA)

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  • vedika kakar

    Protecting your religion is one thin and spreading error is another.
    Oh but is that not what US did in Iran, Afghanistan and all other countries who had no bloody relations with America?
    But nobody sees Americas fault and most of these leader who do not come to light are not even ji.hadis. Now even terror is simply terror

    But it is the sole fault of the States and it can stop playing victim

SHARE
  • vedika kakar

    Protecting your religion is one thin and spreading error is another.
    Oh but is that not what US did in Iran, Afghanistan and all other countries who had no bloody relations with America?
    But nobody sees Americas fault and most of these leader who do not come to light are not even ji.hadis. Now even terror is simply terror

    But it is the sole fault of the States and it can stop playing victim

Next Story

Juneteenth: A Proclamation From The Executive Of The United States

Another Independence Day

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Deborah Smith and her husband, Kuma, watch festivities at a Juneteenth celebration at Leimert Park in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, June 19, 2010.
Deborah Smith and her husband, Kuma, watch festivities at a Juneteenth celebration at Leimert Park in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, June 19, 2010. VOA

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves free.”

That proclamation, June 19, 1865, was the spark for a day that has come to be known in the United States as Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of U.S. slavery.

The proclamation in Texas actually came 2½ years after slavery ended with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. That document, which made emancipation effective in slaveholding states January 1, 1863, was signed in the middle of the Civil War. But it was not until federal troops arrived thousands of kilometers west in Texas, two months after the official end of the war in 1965, that many Texas slaves were informed that they were free.

The reason for the delay in notification of the slaves is unclear. It could have been slow communications at a time when telephones and email did not exist; it could have been that such a proclamation could not have been enforced until federal troops arrived in Texas after the war.

Life for freed slaves

The proclamation did not immediately make life easy for freed slaves. They had to find their own work for wages and grapple with prejudice that causes racial divides in the United States today. But emancipation was a legal victory that came as welcome news to the 250,000 African-Americans who had been illegally enslaved in Texas for 30 months after the signing of the document that was meant to free them.

Today, Juneteenth supporters are still working for recognition of the holiday, which is celebrated with picnics, parades, prayer and public celebrations of African-American culture.

The holiday was once celebrated mostly in the western United States. Texas-dwellers took the holiday with them as they followed job opportunities west. But the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s brought a new surge in interest in the holiday in the East, and now 45 out of 50 states have designated the mid-June celebration as an official state holiday or day of observance. Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

Slaves
Slaves, Pixabay

Community celebrations

This Saturday and Sunday, many Juneteenth celebrations are taking place before the official June 19 anniversary of the proclamation. In Salisbury, Maryland, close to the eastern U.S. coast, residents held an outdoor festival featuring dancing and local crafts at a cultural center.

Community organizer Amber Green told a reporter that Juneteenth “is basically Black Independence Day.”

Juneteenth celebrations tend to be generated by the community, highlighting ties among family and friends.

Also read: Islamic State (ISIS) Terrorist Group using Thousands of Women as Sex slaves in Mosul, Iraq

“Today is our festival,” Green said. “We have local artists, local vendors, local music, and we are just bringing the community together through good food, good music and good fun.” (VOA)