Terror Raids in Europe Police Arrest Members of Alleged Jihadi Financing Network

In a pan-European operation, police in France, Germany and the Netherlands have detained 10 men they suspect of financing a terror group in Uzbekistan. Some of the men are thought to have acted as couriers funneling cash to the jihadists.

By Yassin Musharbash

IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev

IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev

Although German authorities were aware that French police were investigating a network of alleged terrorism financers, the request for help on Friday morning came as a surprise.

The reason, though, was simple: One of the suspects is currently staying in Weil am Rhein, a town in the state of Baden-Württemberg close to the Swiss and French borders. However, the man, a Turk, actually lives in France.

Apart from the 35-year-old, nine other people were arrested. Eight were seized in France, partly in areas close to the German border, and a 10th man was held in Tilburg in the Netherlands. During the raids Dutch police searched three houses and confiscated a computer, documents, a CS gas pistol and a handgun magazine.

It is unknown at the moment whether all the arrested men are Turks. But most are definitely of Turkish origin, say sources in Germany's security authorities. Some of them also had Western European passports.

French authorities accuse the suspects of supporting and financing an Uzbek Islamist organization. Contrary to some media reports on Friday afternoon, the organization in question is not the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), but the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, some of the suspects are thought to have acted as couriers who personally transported money to the IMU.

In contrast to the IMU, the IJU is well-known in Germany. Firstly, because the suspected bomb makers who were arrested in the Sauerland last summer had contacts to the IJU. And secondly, because the Bavarian-born Islamist Cünyt Ciftci blew himself up in the name of IJU in Afghanistan in March -- killing two Afghans and two US soldiers.

The IMU and IJU have common roots, but they are two different organizations. The IJU is ideologically in line with al-Qaida, also operates out of the Afghan-Pakistan border area and nowadays has an international jihadi agenda. The IMU, however, has more regionally-based goals, namely the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in central Asia and the overthrow of the regime of Uzbek President Islom Karimov.

Yet the focus of the IMU has for many years lain outside Uzbekistan. Nowadays the organization is present in Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- and meddles in local conflicts there. At the start of the year, IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev declared in an audio message that efforts to introduce Sharia law and the fight against the Pakistani state had to be intensified.

It is, however, difficult to definitively classify the IMU as a terrorist organization, although the US does consider the IMU to be one.

According to sources in the French police, the arrests of the 10 men Friday were of a preventative nature. The authorities do not believe the men were financing a concrete attack. Sources in the German authorities say that there was no connection between Friday's raids and the Sauerland terror cell.


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