- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

Iran is secretly training Islamic terrorists from Uzbekistan for future operations in Central Asia, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Military officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran's radical Islamic military units, have been training and supporting militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, known as IMU.
The IMU has close ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, and the group used Afghanistan as a sanctuary in the past. Its relationship to al Qaeda and Afghanistan was a major factor in the decision by the Uzbek government to support U.S. military action in the region.
The new intelligence, gathered by the U.S. Central Command, shows that Iran's government is backing the IMU despite some steps toward reform within the leadership.
IMU fighters were among the several hundred al Qaeda militants killed during Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan last month.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumfeld last week stated that Iran is assisting al Qaeda terrorists fleeing Afghanistan. He also said Iran has been working with Syria to send terrorists to conduct attacks against Israel.
"This is all well known," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "These countries are not only trying to kill people outside their countries, but they are repressing their own people. They have an active program of denying the rights of the people in those three countries that is vicious, repressive and, unfortunately, successful."
Iran has provided safe haven to al Qaeda terrorists and allowed others to pass through Iran to other countries, he said.
Asked whether Iran, Iraq or other states were behind the September 11 attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "I'm not in the law enforcement business where we run around and try to connect things to certain events for the purposes of prosecution. That's the Department of Justice and others."
U.S. intelligence agencies have been looking for signs of state sponsorship for the September 11 attacks, which many analysts believe were too sophisticated for amateur terrorists to have carried out alone.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps was implicated by U.S. intelligence to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, according to intelligence officials.
There also are intelligence reports linking the Revolutionary Guards and Iran's intelligence service to al Qaeda terrorist operations, the officials said.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov told reporters in Tashkent last week that Pakistan was harboring IMU terrorists who fled Afghanistan. "The Pakistani authorities have done nothing to detain bandits from Uzbekistan who were trained in Afghanistan and took part in the al Qaeda terrorist network," Mr. Karimov said on Thursday.
Up to 2,000 IMU members were in Afghanistan last year, including Takhir Yuldash, the head of the IMU.
Mr. Karimov said the IMU leader fled Afghanistan's Paktia province during the U.S. military's Operation Anaconda in March.
"Now he only can be in Pakistan," Mr. Karimov said. "Uzbekistan has an extradition agreement with Pakistan, but we haven't seen its practical implementation."
U.S. officials said Mr. Yuldash and other IMU members have been working with military officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Some training of IMU members has taken place inside Iran, and the group is also getting help from Iran with travel, documents, weapons and explosives.
"The Iranians are helping to coordinate IMU activities," one U.S. intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The IMU has been blamed for a string of bombings in Tashkhent in 1999. The group is seeking to set up a radical Islamic state in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian nations.
Currently, there are about 1,000 U.S. military personnel inside Uzbekistan. Most of them are deployed at a military airfield near Khanabad, in southern Uzbekistan.
Mr. Karimov said U.S. troop levels in his country will be limited to 1,500.
"We have no complaints against the United States," Mr. Karimov said. "The agreement is being observed fully, and the Uzbek side is notified in advance about what planes will land in Khanabad."
Iran is one of three states President Bush has identified as an "axis of evil."
U.S. intelligence officials said Iran's government appears to have a dual-track policy on terrorism. It is covertly supporting terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the IMU while stating publicly that it opposes terrorism.
The Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet reported last week that Iran had captured Cemil Bayik, a key leader of the Marxist terrorist group Worker's Party of Kurdistan.
Mr. Bayik was arrested along with two bodyguards on March 30 after the Turkish government supplied Tehran with information about his location in a region of Iran near the Turkish border.

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