- August 23rd, 2012: In a recent video publication of the Waziristan based Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) a Norwegian with the nom de guerre Abu Bilal is being featured. I believe it is the first case of a Norwegian featuring in a jihadist video of an internationally known terrorist entity.
The IMU however, it should be noted, has for the past few years accepted quite a number of so called foreign fighters, most of them from Germany.
The IMU was virtually unknown in German until when a few years back two German speaking Jihadists appeared in a propaganda video of that group. When I was at SPIEGEL ONLINE, we managed to identify them as two brothers from the German city of Bonn.
Years later they described in a written statement how they originally hooked up with the IMU: They had been in Yemen before, with Jihadists there. They suggested the two brothers leave for Waziristan as they considered Yemen too dangerous. It so happened that IMU cadres had a role in the transfer and when the two Germans asked what group they‘d be with they were told they were free to choose. They chose the group that helped them into Waziristan - and thus the IMU got hold of their first foreign fighters from a Western country.
This unforeseeable accident had repercussions, however, because the two brothers soon discovered their talent for PR. German authorities are convinced that a number of Germans who later also joined the IMU did so because of the promises of the two brothers: hospitals, kindergardens, and a so friendly, solid, international community of fighters.
At the peak there probably were as many as a dozen Germans with the IMU. They took part in fights against the Pakistani Army or raids against the US army in Afghanistan. Several died, in fire fights or by US drone.
The current state of the IMU is diffcult to estimate from here. But it is probably not too good, even though it is one of the larger enterprises in the area. Foreign Fighters that were caught spoke of a lack of food and resources and a also a high degree of paranoia for spies in the IMU. This bad mood probably played a role when al-Qaida in 2009 and 2010 took over several foreign fighters from the IMU. They probably had more to offer.
Generally speaking the IMU is rather big and rather dangerous - but also not very internationalist. It seems it mainly focuses on the Pakistani Army. It is not known for plotting actual attacks in the West. (But this of course MAY change according to availability of resources.)
So if out of seemingly nowhere a Norwegians joins IMU#S ranks, I would personally not be surprised if it turns out that Abu Bilal at some point in the not too far ago past ran into German Radicals. But this is pure speculation. We will probably soon now more about this case.
PS: If you speak Norwegian, I spoke to VG about this today: http://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/terrorisme/artikkel.php?artid=10060228 (Link via @Hilango, request from VG via @lars_akerhaug)