- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (Agence France-Presse) President Islam Karimov raised fears yesterday that pockets of Islamic rebels still in Afghanistan could try to seep into the volatile Central Asian region via neighboring Tajikistan.
"We have serious concerns and have said this to the Tajik president [Emomali Rakhmonov] today that these bandits could seep into Tajikistan from Afghanistan," Mr. Karimov said.
The two presidents were meeting ahead of a gathering of leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The meeting is expected to center around regional stability and multilateral cooperation.
All four former Soviet Central Asian countries have said they would allow their bases to be used by U.S.-led coalition forces.
Central Asian leaders have long warned of the dangers of violence and Islamic extremism spilling across their borders from war-torn Afghanistan, where the Taliban harbored Muslim fundamentalists from around the world.
These fears remained despite the defeat of the Taliban regime, ousted by the Northern Alliance with the help of U.S. air strikes, and the inauguration of a new power-sharing government in Kabul last week.
Both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were attacked in 2000 by armed rebels who had been trained in Afghanistan and were said to be based in the remote north of Tajikistan.
The rebels from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were led by Uzbek warlord Djuma Namangani.
According to unofficial reports, Mr. Namangani was killed while fighting with the Taliba in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

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