Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999 - Kyrgyzstan

International terrorism shocked Kyrgyzstan for the first time in August when armed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) militants twice crossed into Kyrgyzstan and instigated a two-and-one-half-month hostage crisis. From 6 to 13 August, IMU militants from Tajikistan held four Kyrgyzstanis hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan before they released them without incident and retreated to Tajikistan. The militants returned in a larger force on 22 August and seized 13 hostages, including four Japanese geologists, their interpreter, a Kyrgyzstani Interior Ministry general, and several Kyrgyzstani soldiers. IMU militants continued to arrive in subsequent weeks, numbering as many as 1,000 at the incursion's peak.

The IMU's implicit goal was to infiltrate Uzbekistan and destabilize the government. The militants first demanded safe passage to Uzbekistan; additional demands called for money and a prisoner exchange. Uzbekistan refused to allow them to enter, leaving Kyrgyzstan's ill-prepared security forces to combat the terrorists with Uzbekistani military assistance, Russian logistic support, and negotiation assistance from other governments. The militants' guerrilla tactics enabled them to maintain their position in difficult mountainous terrain, frustrating the Kyrgyzstani military's attempts to dislodge them. Observers speculated that only the approach of winter forced the militants to retreat into Tajikistan, where negotiators were able to facilitate an agreement between the IMU and Kyrgyzstani representatives.

On 25 October the militants finally released all hostages except a Kyrgystani soldier they had executed. Kyrgyzstan released an IMU prisoner, but Kyrgyzstani and Japanese officials denied Japanese press reports that they paid a monetary ransom for the hostages' release. Although an agreement stipulated that all IMU militants would leave Tajikistani territory after the hostage crisis, some IMU militants may have remained in the region. Central Asian officials and most external observers feared that a similar IMU incursion into Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan could occur in the spring, either from bases in Tajikistan or from terrorist camps in Afghanistan.


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