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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
  • 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)

  • 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

Venezuela Unrest Creates A Battleground For U.S. And Russia

The State Department was more muted, saying only that Russian and Cuban intervention was “destabilizing for Venezuela.”

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Venezuela
Venezuelan Crisis Spurs May Day Rallies, Clashes. VOA

The unrest in Venezuela is turning into a battleground of rhetoric between the United States and Russia.

After a telephone conversation between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, the Russian warned of “the most drastic of consequences” if the U.S. continued what he called “aggressive steps.”

The State Department was more muted, saying only that Russian and Cuban intervention was “destabilizing for Venezuela.”

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters at the White House in Washington, May 1, 2019.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters at the White House in Washington, May 1, 2019. VOA

But White House national security adviser John Bolton said, “This is our hemisphere. It’s not where the Russians ought to be interfering. This is a mistake on their part. It’s not going to lead to an improvement of relations.”

Pompeo said again Wednesday that the U.S. was prepared to use military action in Venezuela: “If that is what is required, this is what the United States will do.”

But Pompeo and President Donald Trump have not specified what would prompt the U.S. to intervene militarily.

Cuba denies troops in Venezuela

Meanwhile, a top Cuban diplomat denied U.S. accusations that thousands of Cuban troops were on the ground in Venezuela.

“Cuba does not participate in military operations nor in security operations in Venezuela,” Cuban Chief of U.S. Affairs Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told the Associated Press.

He said the 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela were primarily medical workers.

But he did say, as hemispheric partners, Cuba and Venezuela have the sovereign right to military and intelligence cooperation.

Cuba and Russia are longtime allies of Venezuela and its socialist government. Russia has supplied economic support and military equipment to the Maduro government, while Venezuela has sent billions of dollars in oil to Cuba in exchange for medical aid.

Guaido: More demonstrations

Supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by the U.S. and more than 50 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful president, filled the streets again Wednesday, hurling rocks at police who responded with tear gas.

Guaido said a staggered industrial action would start Thursday, leading to a general strike.

“We’re going to remain in the streets until we achieve freedom for the Venezuelan people. The regime will try to increase the repression. It will try to persecute me,” he told demonstrators Wednesday.

As head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Guaido used the constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro’s presidency illegitimate, saying his election in December was a fraud.

Millions of Venezuelans — sick of out-of-control inflation, severe food and fuel shortages, a lack of medical care, and periodic blackouts — have fled the country.

Maduro accuses Guaido of coup

Maduro is accusing Guaido of trying to carry out a U.S.- and Colombian-supported coup and says the opposition will fail.

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He said demonstrators would be prosecuted “for the serious crimes that have been committed against the constitution, the rule of law and the right to peace.”

Neither Maduro nor Guaido can succeed, however, without the support of Venezuela’s powerful military. While many of the rank-and-file soldiers have joined the opposition, Maduro still has the backing of generals and other top military chiefs. (VOA)