Overview: The Government of Uzbekistan remained concerned about the potential spillover of terrorism from Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors and about “radicalization” of Uzbeks abroad. Uzbekistan continued to improve relations with its neighbors in many areas, including security cooperation. Uzbekistan has actively participated in the C5+1 diplomatic platform, which includes a program related to CVE. After an initial increase in law enforcement cooperation with the United States following the October 31, 2017, terrorist attack in New York City, in which an ethnic Uzbek who was a U.S. permanent resident was charged, Uzbekistan’s law enforcement bodies largely abstained from substantive cooperation with the U.S. government in law enforcement and information exchange. The government restricts information on internal matters, making it difficult to analyze the extent of the terrorist threat and the effectiveness of Uzbek law enforcement efforts.
2018 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Uzbekistan in 2018. In November, Uzbek authorities arrested Dzhasurbek Yuldashev on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Law on Combating Terrorism governs terrorism-related investigations and prosecutions and identifies the State Security Service (SSS) as the lead counterterrorism law enforcement agency. Uzbekistan also criminalizes terrorism under its criminal code, and the National Development Strategy for 2017–2021 targets corruption, “extremism,” and terrorism.
Uzbekistan does not publicly share operational counterterrorism information. The SSS and the Ministry of Interior have dedicated counterterrorism units. Arrests for “religious extremism” also continued in 2018. Despite the removal of an estimated 16,000 people from a 17,000-person security watchlist of suspected Muslim “extremists” in 2017, the Uzbek government continued to use security concerns related to terrorism as grounds for detentions. They conducted frequent document checks and resident-list checks to identify potential FTFs. In November, the SSS reportedly detained six members of a jihadist group for distributing “extremist” literature and planning to join terrorist organizations in Afghanistan.
Although Uzbekistan does not disclose data on returning FTFs, local media in March reported that a Fergana district court in Uzbekistan sentenced an Uzbek fighter who had returned from Syria and was reportedly planning a terrorist act in Russia to 15 years imprisonment. Another Uzbek national who was recruited by ISIS and fled a Turkish prison was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in Uzbekistan.
Uzbek law enforcement maintains its own terrorist watchlist and contributes to INTERPOL databases. Most border posts and airports are equipped with biometric data scanners. Uzbekistan has mostly completed the conversion of all passports to a new biometric version, and is working to introduce international biometric passports for travel abroad, starting in January 2019.
Uzbekistan has not reported specific actions to implement UNSCRs 2309 and 2396. Uzbekistan is currently evaluating the adoption of the U.S. Automated Targeting System-Global (ATS-G) passenger screening system, which could improve implementation of UNSCR 2396 obligations on PNR and API collection and analysis.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Uzbekistan belongs to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG), a FATF-style regional body. Article 155 of the criminal code criminalizes the financing of terrorism and includes a prison sentence of eight to 10 years. The AML/CFT law provides for freezing of assets and mandates that all financial entities check parties to a transaction against lists of persons involved in or suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. An additional regulation establishes a procedure for the creation of such lists and delisting requests. In preparation for its 2019 EAG mutual assessment, the Uzbek government set up an interagency Commission on Combatting Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, headed by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism: Uzbekistan remains concerned about ISIS recruitment of Uzbeks. Local government organizations continued to educate citizens about the dangers of “religious extremism.” Official media and Tashkent Islamic University produced public messages about the dangers of “extremism” and posted them on social media platforms and messaging apps.
In 2018, Uzbekistan adopted a law on “combating extremism,” which provides a broad definition of extremism and does not differentiate between extremism and violent extremism. The Ministry of Justice maintains a list of “extremist” organizations. The Government of Uzbekistan has been publicly endorsing rehabilitation and reintegration of citizens previously engaged or suspected of being engaged in terrorist activities. In September, the government established an interagency commission headed by the Prosecutor General’s Office to oversee the rehabilitation process of Uzbek citizens who had been “misled” into joining terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but had not been involved in combat or terrorist activities.
International and Regional Cooperation: Uzbekistan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure headquarters is in Tashkent. Uzbekistan continued to work with the OSCE and UNODC on security issues, and participated in a training course led by the U.S. Department of Justice on prosecuting and investigating terrorism crimes. As a member of the C5+1 diplomatic platform, Uzbekistan participates in the associated C5+1 Security Working Group, which focuses on regional cooperation on counterterrorism and CVE.