INVOLVEMENT OF RUSSIAN ORGANIZED CRIME IN TO CAUCASUS AND CHECHNYA

INVOLVEMENT OF RUSSIAN ORGANIZED CRIME
SYNDICATES, CRIMINAL ELEMENTS IN THE RUSSIAN
MILITARY, AND REGIONAL TERRORIST GROUPS IN
NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING IN CENTRAL ASIA, THE
CAUCASUS, AND CHECHNYA

A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division,
Library of Congress
under an Interagency Agreement with the
United States Government

October 2002

Author: Glenn E. Curtis

Project Manager: Glenn E. Curtis

Federal Research Division
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20540−4840
Tel: 202−707−3900
Fax: 202−707−3920
E-Mail: frds@loc.gov
Homepage: http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/frd/

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PREFACE

This report describes the current status of narcotics trafficking in four countries of
Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), in the three former Soviet
republics of the south Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), and in Chechnya. The
purpose of the report is to reveal the role of Russian organized crime and Central Asian terrorist
organizations in narcotics trafficking in those areas. To achieve this goal, the report describes the
overall present structure of trafficking routes and organizations, insofar as these are known. A
wide variety of sources has been used, focusing most heavily on current news accounts from the
regions in question.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE ...................................................................................................................................... i

KEY JUDGMENTS ...................................................................................................................... 1

INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................... 2

NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING IN THE CAUCASUS .............................................................. 3
Conventional and Terrorist Trafficking in Georgia ........................................................... 3
Trafficking in Armenia and Azerbaijan ..............................................................................7

TRAFFICKING THROUGH CENTRAL ASIA . ...................................................................... 8
Background ........................................................................................................................ 8
Trafficking by Terrorist Groups ....................................................................................... 11
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) ....................................................... 11
Narcotics and the IMU ......................................................................................... 13
Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) ............................................................................................. 16
Trafficking by Crime Groups ........................................................................................... 18

THE ROLE OF CHECHENS IN NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING ........................................23

NARCOTICS MARKETS IN THE CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS ...............................25

DISTRIBUTION POINTS AND ROUTES IN RUSSIA ....................................................... 27

CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................................... 30

BIBLIOGRAPHY ...................................................................................................................... 32

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KEY JUDGMENTS
• In the past two years, narcotics trafficking routes established in Georgia in the 1990s
have seen an increased volume.

• The narcotics trade in Georgia has been contested between conventional crime
organizations and Chechen guerrilla forces; the latter group seems to have gained the
advantage.

• The Georgian government has offered increasingly ineffective resistance to narcotics
trafficking.

• Narcotics trafficking in Armenia and Azerbaijan has been less than in Georgia, but
conditions exist for a substantial increase in both countries.

• Recent events in Afghanistan have not reduced the flow of heroin through Central Asia
into Russia and to the West.

• Trafficking routes through Central Asia and the Caucasus continue to diversify and
expand, fueled by Afghan opium and chaotic conditions in transit countries.

• Members of several ethnic groups are major participants in the narcotics trade emanating
from Central Asia, and Russian criminal organizations appear to play a diminishing role.

• The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) is known to rely heavily on narcotics
trafficking over a number of Central Asian routes to support its military, political, and
propaganda activities. That trafficking is based on moving heroin from Afghanistan
through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, into Russia, and then into Western
Europe.

• As markets and processing capacity expand into new parts of Central Asia, the IMU has
been able to adjust its military and trafficking activities to respond to interdiction in given
areas.

• The effect of military losses in Afghanistan on IMU’s narcotics activity is yet unknown,
in part because the status and priorities of its leaders are unclear.

• The Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) is a fundamentalist Islamic group whose membership in
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan is expanding rapidly. To this point, HT has relied
on peaceful means to propagate its central idea of Islamic governance throughout Central
Asia.

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• HT’s decentralized structure conceals its activities very effectively. Although HT has
funded its widespread educational and propaganda network primarily from overseas
contributions, individual cells may be involved in narcotics trafficking.

• HT’s expanding appeal among the poor provides a strong base for potential terrorist
activity, and ongoing repression in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan may drive at least some
parts of the organization to respond violently.

INTRODUCTION
In his January 2002 report on crime and terrorism to the Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS), Russian Procurator General Vladimir Ustinov summarized crime in the CIS thus:
“There is an intensive formation of international criminal associations. The dimensions and sizes
of their smuggling activity are growing. The criminal zone of the CIS with its ‘transparency’ for
criminals has recently acquired additional ‘system-forming’ factors. There has been a noticeable
growth in organized groupings’ interest in the state border and border areas. Migration and
demographic processes have begun to act as new problems here. Organized crime has learned to
adapt well. Criminal forms of its manifestation are continually improving and changing
depending on the conditions that emerge.” Ustinov noted another characteristic common to 80
percent of criminal organizations in the CIS: protection gained through connections with law
enforcement agencies.1
Anecdotal evidence indicates that the smuggling of narcotics in the Caucasus region and
Central Asia is a good example of the adaptability that Ustinov describes. With the possible
exception of smuggling by military personnel, operations are segmented and flexible, with no
single arm of organizational control reaching, for example, across the border from Russia into a
Central Asian state. The ethnic characteristics of such activity comply fully with the overall trend
of pragmatic international linkages and cooperation.
Russian narcotics traffickers have become integrated into this process. Especially if
Chechnya is counted as a non-Russian part of the CIS, the presence of smugglers from other CIS
republics in Russia seems to far exceed the presence of Russian smugglers in the other republics.
As narcotics networks expand and become more complex, conventional Russian criminal

1
Vladimir Ustinov, report to joint session of coordinating council of general prosecutors, internal affairs ministers,
heads of security bodies and special services, commanders of border troops, and heads of customs services of CIS
member states, Minsk, January 29, 2002.
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organizations seem to enjoy an increasingly small share of the narcotics market, both within
Russia and in other states of the former Soviet Union. The new pragmatism of criminal
groupings has removed the distinctly ethnic quality of the “traditional” criminal organizations.
The evolution of the Chechen groups, discussed below, is a good example of such change.

NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING IN THE CAUCASUS
Because of its geographic position between the major narcotics producing region of the
Golden Crescent (Azerbaijan and Pakistan) and the major narcotics markets in Russia and
Europe, the Caucasus has become a major narcotics corridor. An additional factor is the
weakness of law enforcement agencies in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. As narcotics have
passed through, the rate of addiction also has increased in those countries. Armenia, slightly to
the southwest of the main narcotics routes, probably has had the least exposure to narcotics
traffic. Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor, Iran, has established an effective anti-trafficking policy
that has pushed narcotics routes northward into Azerbaijan, where corruption has invited such
activity. Georgia, experiencing a collapse of law enforcement, a civil war on its northern border,
and an alarming rate of state corruption, has provided traffickers the most favorable conditions of
the three countries. However, authorities in Armenia and Azerbaijan have warned that narcotics
activity will increase significantly if more effective interdiction measures are not taken.

Conventional and Terrorist Trafficking in Georgia
In 2000 Georgian legal expert Georgi Glonti wrote, “The drug business is very wide-
spread in Georgia today. A variety of criminal groups and individual citizens take part in this
crime. Ethnic groups from Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and people from
other CIS countries as well as Turkey are involved in the drug business. Considering Georgia’s
location, many countries are using it as a corridor, especially the regions with weak government
control.”2 Evidence suggests that trafficking has increased in the two years since Glonti wrote
that evaluation. The presence of Chechen guerrilla groups in the area of that country’s Pankisi
Gorge has played an important role in that trend.

2
Georgi Glonti, “Problems Associated with Organized Crime in Georgia,” report for Institute of Legal Reform,
Tbilisi, 2000.
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In the 1990s, a variety of illegal smuggling and trafficking activities, including narcotics
trafficking, appeared along routes from Georgia into Turkey. Those activities were based on
channels of shuttle trade that profited from corrupt Georgian border authorities and cheap
transportation into Turkey. In this way, Georgia became a corridor for illegal transit from many
points in the former Soviet Union into the West.3
According to a report in April 2002, drug trafficking through Georgia has reached the
level of US$1 billion per year, a sharp increase from previous years.4 As of mid-2002, the
Georgian government had not (by its own admission) been able to deal effectively with this
phenomenon. Because of its location on the southwestern border of Russia and on the
northeastern border of Turkey, Georgia has become an important segment of a heroin trafficking
route from Afghanistan through Central Asia, through Iran and Azerbaijan and into Russia, or
towards the West from Georgia’s Black Sea ports.5 Georgia’s external tensions with Russia, its
internal tensions with separatist movements, and the ongoing independence struggle of
neighboring Chechnya add other dimensions to the problem.
An important center of narcotics activity in the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus is
the Pankisi Gorge, where keen competition for the drug market does not seem to include onsite
Russian groups. The gorge is a sparsely populated, 12-mile valley in a remote mountainous
region of northeastern Georgia, adjacent to the Chechen Republic of Russia and east of the South
Ossetian Autonomous Region of Georgia. The latter jurisdiction has an unresolved, eleven-year
claim to self-determination. Inhabitants of the Pankisi area include indigenous Chechens, called
Kists, and Ossetians. Refugees from Chechnya have exacerbated existing ethnic tensions by
pushing the majority of Ossetians out. The refugee community in Pankisi reportedly includes
narcotics dealers who have used connections in Chechnya to establish trafficking routes into
Pankisi.6
Because of its geographic location and topography, the gorge has received international
attention as a center of drug and arms smuggling, as a point of controversy among ethnic groups,

3
Georgi Glonti, “Trafficking in Human Beings in Georgia and the CIS,” Demokratizatsiya, 9, no. 3, (Summer
2001): 389.
4
Moscow Interfax report from Tbilisi, 22 April 2002 (FBIS Document CEP2002042000161).
5
Georgian Minister of Security Valeri Khaburdzania identified Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as intermediate points
on a “likely narcotics route” from Afghanistan to the Black Sea in a broadcast of Prime News [Tbilisi], 25 June 2002
(FBIS Document CEP20020625000277).
6
Personal communication from Chechen researcher Zarema Mazayeva of European Division, Library of Congress.
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and as a foothold of Chechen guerrillas, who have become involved in all the other activities in
the gorge. The U.S. Department of State characterizes the Pankisi region as a central point for
“repackaging” of drugs originating in Afghanistan and moving from South Ossetia and
Azerbaijan to markets in Georgia.7 This activity has been promoted by chronic corruption in the
Georgian government, diversion of that government’s attention to ongoing demands for
autonomy by three of the country’s component regions, and the ineptness of Georgian military
and police forces. In the spring of 2002, the prosecutor in Kakheti, the province that includes the
Pankisi Gorge, was replaced because of incompetence and corruption and the consequent failure
to control narcotics trafficking in the Pankisi region.8 In March 2002, General Tengiz Epitashvili
of the Georgian Armed Forces alleged that Georgian border guards and law-enforcement
officials have become rich from bribes paid by Chechen militants.9 In June 2002, security
officials reported that two narcotics routes from Pankisi to other points in Georgia had been cut
off, but that traffickers had made an adjustment to a third destination in eastern Georgia.10
The Pankisi Gorge, where clan loyalties are at the foundation of local politics, also has
become a point of contention between the Georgian and Russian governments. The Russians
have claimed that the Georgians have intentionally harbored Islamic militants, including Osama
bin Laden, among the Chechen refugees who moved southward into Georgia during the second
war between Russia and its breakaway republic. After extensive exchanges of accusations, in
May 2002 Georgia’s minister of security Valeri Khaburdzania admitted that 800 Chechen
guerrillas and 100 others “of Arab origin”—both numbers substantially more than the Russian
estimate─were indeed in the Pankisi Gorge.11 In the summer of 2002, Georgian police and
Interior Ministry officials reported several times that some Chechen fighters had left Pankisi and
returned to Chechnya, but no independent reports of such movement were available. In the
meantime, the United States, alarmed by the possibility of an al-Qaeda base in Georgia, brought

7
U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2001 (Washington: 2001).
8
Report from Agenstvo voyennykh novostey (Military News Agency, Moscow), 21 March 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020321000255).
9
Report in Severnyy Kavkaz [Nalchik], 20 March 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020327000182).
10
Valeria Khaburdzania report, 25 June 2002.
11
Dilis Gazeti [Tbilisi], 22 May 2002, reported in BBC Worldwide Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.

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a small military group into the Pankisi region in the spring of 2002 to train Georgian anti-
terrorist forces.
A central figure in the Pankisi Gorge has been Ruslan Gelayev, an independent Chechen
guerrilla leader whose forces have been in the region for more than two years and against whom
the Shevardnadze government has taken little action. Gelayev’s group, which operates as an
autonomous quasi-police force in the region—on some occasions apparently representing the
interests of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs─is assumed to be involved heavily in the
rampant narcotics smuggling that sends drugs from Pankisi across the Russian border and into
the rest of Georgia. Gelayev is known to have dealt with the Georgian Shengelia mafia and to
have bought into the local drug trade by bribing officials in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He
also reportedly has assisted the CIA by apprehending al-Qaeda agents in the region.12
According to one report, Gelayev’s Chechen group had been “frozen out” of the local
drug trade by the established local barons until Gelayev made a deal with the Georgian
authorities that opened up the market to him. In early 2002, Gelayev’s troops may have been
instrumental in the arrest of at least one well-known local drug dealer, Yuriy Baritashvili, by
Georgian authorities. Baritashvili has shared the Pankisi smuggling trade with the Chechen
Akhmadov brothers, Uvays and Imran. The Russian Boris Berezovskiy and his Georgian-born
business protege Badri Patarkatsishvili have been mentioned by Russian sources (whose bias
against the controversial Berezovskiy must be recognized) as backers of Baritashvili and the
Akhmadovs.13 By 2002, however, Gelayev apparently had gained full control of the Pankisi drug
traffic.
Gelayev reportedly has financial support from Khozni Nukhayev, a former intelligence
chief in the breakaway Chechen government, now a Chechen mafioso described as “one of the
richest and most influential people in the Caucasus.”14 The return of Gelayev to Chechnya from
Georgia—predicted in some Russian sources and denied in others─presumably would change
the narcotics trafficking situation in both places, opening a new struggle for control in Pankisi
and intensifying activity in Chechnya. Such a move may have the support of Levan Kenchadze, a

12
Timofey Borisov, “Has Gelayev Got His Eye on the Chechen Leadership? But Before That, He Tried Out the
Route to Ichkeria via Dagestan,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta [Moscow], 15 May 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020515000283).
13
See, for example, Borisov.
14
Borisov.
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high-ranking intelligence officer in the Georgian government. No direct connection of
Kenchadze with narcotics activity has been reported, but reports have accused high-level security
officials in the Georgian government of protecting the drug trade.15 Aside from the allegations
directed at Berezovskiy, no sources have reported direct involvement by the Russian mafia
within the Pankisi region.
Georgia’s narcotics problem often becomes a weapon in the country’s chaotic political
struggles. In February 2002, the Ministry of Security of Georgia accused two close relatives of
Vladislav Ardzinba, president of the breakaway Abkhazian Autonomous Republic, of using their
government positions to protect narcotics trafficking in Abkhazia. This accusation may have
been a response to Ardzinba’s assertion in November 2001 that Georgia was supplying and
protecting Gelayev’s guerrilla forces.16 In June 2002, Kote Qurashvili, the head of the Georgian
Ministry of Interior’s anti-narcotics department, was himself accused of selling heroin.17

Trafficking in Armenia and Azerbaijan
Although border personnel have been significantly augmented along Russia’s Caucasus
border in places such as North Ossetia, the border remains porous because the ongoing
impoverishment of Russia’s military forces and the destructive effect of the Chechnya conflict
on military morale in the region make the bribes of drug traffickers an irresistible temptation.
The regional threat of narcotics moving into and through the Caucasus has been implicitly
recognized by meetings and statements of representatives of the Caucasus Four—Russia,
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia—on international terrorism, organized crime, and drug
trafficking in the region. The group called for coordinated action within the context of the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).18 No concrete steps have been taken, however,
since the high-level meeting at the end of March 2002. Another meeting was scheduled for
September 2002 in Tbilisi.

15
See, for example, Vera Tsereteli, “Not Lying Is Hard, but It Can Be Done, Nino Burjanidze, Speaker of the
Georgian Parliament, Believes,” Obshchaya Gazeta [Moscow], 18 April 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020419000407).
16
Georgian news broadcast, Prime News [Tbilisi], 28 April 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020428000066).
17
Report of Rustavi-2 television station [Tbilisi], 23 June 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020624000196).
18
“How Will We Fight Drug Addiction?” Azg [Yerevan], 30 March 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020330000055).
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Outside the official context of the Caucasus Four, Armenian and Azerbaijani officials
have exchanged accusations that their respective countries serve as major conduits for narcotics
introduced into the Caucasus region.19 In March 2002, a representative of Armenia’s Ministry of
the Interior denied that Armenia was a drug transit route, but he warned that Armenia might
become a transit route if regional security assistance were not provided.20 The ongoing Nagorno-
Karabakh issue between the two countries is a significant part of the context of such exchanges;
Azerbaijan alleges that the disputed region, occupied by Armenia, is the center of Armenian
narcotics activities. The U.S. State Department and Azerbaijani health officials have reported
recent sharp increases in drug addiction in Azerbaijan, caused by increased traffic through that
country from Central Asia to Western Europe.21 Azerbaijan has charged that large drug
shipments are passing into Azerbaijan through the 90-mile Armenian-occupied portion of the
Azerbaijan-Iran border, and that the Armenian diaspora directs a drug-trafficking office in
Nagorno-Karabakh.22 Domestic Azerbaijani authorities have arrested Iranian drug dealers, but
there are no reports of arrests of Russian dealers in Azerbaijan. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan
has a terrorist organization that could be trafficking in narcotics, although the Armenian
activities alleged by Azerbaijan in occupied territory have aspects of terrorist activity.

TRAFFICKING THROUGH CENTRAL ASIA
Background
Several factors have promoted the narcotics trade in Central Asia since the breakup of the
Soviet Union: a common regional language; proximity to two of the three largest sources of
narcotics in the world, the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia and the Golden Crescent in
Afghanistan and Pakistan; porous border controls exacerbated by rugged terrain; the central

19
For example, Armen Akopyan, “Joint Fight Against Crime,” Ayots Ashkar [Yerevan], 23 March 2002 (FBIS
Document CEP20020323000069), and televised statement of Azerbaijan Defense Minister Safar Abiyev, 23 May
2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020524000006).
20
“How Will We Fight Drug Addiction?”
21
U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and D. Karakmazli,
“The Number of Drug Addicts in the CIS Countries Is on the Increase, Almas Imanbayev, Representative of the
European Regional Office of the WHO, Believes,” Internet report of Ekho [Baku], 21 May 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020522000478).
22
U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and R. Nadiroglu,
“Bin Ladin’s Ties to Armenians Are Much More Extensive than It Appears: New Facts Indicating the Essence of the
Cooperation of ‘Terrorist No. 1’ with his Armenian Counterparts Are Revealed,” Internet report of Zerkalo [Baku],
6 December 2001 (FBIS Document CEP20011206000417).
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geographic position of conflict-wracked Tajikistan; and stricken economies throughout the
region that make officials and ordinary citizens easily amenable to bribes.23 The drug trade from
Afghanistan through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan already was prospering long before
current regional terrorist groups appeared.24 Government repression of Islamic opposition groups
in all five Central Asian republics has promoted an extremist religious-political underworld that
has expanded those networks for its own purposes. In 2000 a kilogram of raw opium costing $50
in Afghanistan cost $10,000 in Moscow, and a kilogram of heroin made from that opium brought
as much as $200,000 in New York and London.25 (Since that time, the price of opium and heroin
in Russian cities has decreased substantially because the supply is much greater than it was in
2000.)
In recent years, significant changes have occurred in the structure of narcotics routes
involving Central Asia. Russia has changed from an end-point of Central Asian narcotics routes
to another trans-shipment point, mainly through Moscow and St. Petersburg. Another change is
that Central Asian republics now are becoming suppliers of narcotics. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,
once only trans-shipment regions for Asian heroin, now also grow significant amounts of
poppies. Kyrgyzstan’s annual heroin output potential is estimated at 180 to 220 tons. Illegal
laboratories in Kyrgyzstan also use indigenous ephedra to produce an estimated 500 tons of
ephedrine, which can be used in amphetamines. The Chu Valley, which extends across northern
Kyrgyzstan and southern Kazakhstan, yields a very large crop of marijuana. That region is
adjacent to the metropolitan centers of Bishkek and Almaty. According to one report, already in
1999 Kyrgyzstan’s total narcotics exports exceeded those of Burma.26 At least one expert,
Tatyana Makarenko, has suggested that sustained reductions in narcotics exports from
Afghanistan could lead to substantially increased production in the former Soviet Central Asian
states, as crime groups try to recoup lost profits. 27Narcotics addiction is rising within the Central

23
Martha Brill Olcott and Natalia Udalova, “Drug Trafficking on the Great Silk Road: The Security Environment in
Central Asia,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Working Papers, no. 11 (March 2000): 14.
24
Olcott and Udalova, 12.
25
Estimates by Ministry of Interior of Russian Federation and United Nations Drug Control Programme, cited in
Olcott and Udalova.
26
Tamara Makarenko, “Kyrgyzstan and the Global Narcotics Trade,” Eurasia Insight, 8 December 1999.

27
Tamara Makarenko, “Traffickers Turn from Balkan Conduit to ‘Northern’ Route,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 13,
no. 8 (August 2001).
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Asian republics as well,28 providing additional markets—although obviously higher profits come
from exports to the West.
The prospect of substantial profits (even a very small percentage of narcotics sale prices
is “substantial” for Central Asian traffickers) drives pragmatic adjustments of routes and markets
when authorities are able to block traffic in a given area. Especially given the current economic
stress of populations in all the Central Asian republics, even the smallest percentage of a
narcotics sale price is “substantial” enough for many to risk arrest. Experts attribute the strong
yearly increase in the volume of narcotics seized by authorities to an increase in traffic rather
than to an improvement of interdiction techniques.29 In 1999 Kyrgyz authorities effectively
blocked one major route that passed from Afghanistan through Khorog on Tajikistan’s border
with Afghanistan, north across the Pamir Mountains to the major Kyrgyz population center of
Osh in the Fergana Valley. Since that time, the volume of smuggling has not decreased; rather, a
wider variety of routes has been used.30
Tajikistan’s vast, mountainous eastern province of Gorno-Badakhshan, which is sparsely
populated, destitute, and virtually roadless,31 continues to provide ideal conditions for the
movement of narcotics, despite intensified efforts by Russian forces to monitor such activities.
The province’s southern border is defined by mountainous northeastern Afghanistan. A major
route between Tajikistan and southern Russia is the railroad between Dushanbe and Astrakhan,
which is known as the “drug train.” In 2001 a shipment of 120 kilograms (264 pounds) of heroin
was discovered in a passenger car in Astrakhan. Small amounts of heroin are carried on the same
route by many individual couriers.32 In early 2002, the typical size of heroin shipments
intercepted at the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border was 10 to 20 kilograms.33 According to Moscow
narcotics specialist Vladimir Charykov, smugglers follow indirect routes in moving by train from

28
“Afghan Political Revival Seen Letting Central Asia Drugs Traffic Flourish,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow], 4
February 2002.
29
Olcott and Udalova.
30
Cornell and Spector.
31
Olcott and Udalova.
32
David Stern, “The Tajikistan Trail: Young Men Risk Death on Drugs Train to Europe,” Financial Times, 10
January 2002, 10.
33
“Tajik Drug Trade Thriving in Northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan,” Monitor, 8, no. 15 (22 January 2002).
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Dushanbe to Moscow; stations in the southern Russian cities of Kazan, Kursk, and Volgograd
have attracted special police attention.34

Trafficking by Terrorist Groups
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
Two major Islamic groups with extreme political programs have surfaced in Central Asia
in the past ten years. The first, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), was founded in 1998
by the charismatic Uzbek guerrilla fighter Juma Namangani (original name Jumaboy Hojiyev)
and another Uzbek, Tohir Yuldeshev, who became the political leader of the organization. The
proximate goal of the group was to overthrow the repressive regime of President Islam Karimov
of Uzbekistan, who had imprisoned many members of Islamic groups that were predecessors to
the IMU.35 According to regional expert Ahmed Rashid, Namangani’s group has a close
relationship with al-Qaeda: “In the IMU, [al-Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden cultivated a cultlike
group that could act as a bridge to Afghanistan’s landlocked, mountainous neighbors—neighbors
who were striking deals with American oil and gas companies and looking increasingly to
Washington for assistance.” In 2000 and 2001, Namangani received an estimated US$35 million
from al-Qaeda36 (including US$20 million given personally by bin Laden) to buy arms and
equipment for his organization.37 According to Rashid, bin Laden also considered Central Asia
as a prime source of new recruits to his cause, and the IMU as a prime instrument in the
recruitment process.
An avowedly terrorist organization, the IMU has been especially active in areas adjacent
to the Fergana Valley, which is the economic and natural resource center of Central Asia. The
IMU aims to capture that critical region and establish an Islamic caliphate that would eventually
expand to rule all of Central Asia. In 1999 and 2000, Fergana, which includes territory of
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, was the scene of terrorist actions that included the

34
Mariya Chernitsyna, “Can We Not Live without Drugs?” Moskovskiy Komsomolets [Moscow], 3 April 2002
(FBIS Document CEP20020403000181).
35
Tom Walker, “Passions Running at Their Height,” review of Ahmed Rashid’s Jihad in Sunday Times [London], 3
February 2002.
36
Ahmed Rashid, “Why Militant Islamicists in Central Asia Aren’t Going to Go Away,” The New Yorker, 14
January 2002.
37
Jonathon Curiel, “From the Cauldron’s Edge: Taliban Author Offers Rare Insight into Troubled Territories,”
review of Ahmed Rashid’s Jihad in San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Review, 3 March 2002, 1.
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kidnapping of Japanese, Kyrgyz, and American citizens in Kyrgyzstan. In the same period, IMU
fighters were training and recruiting with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, where IMU leaders had
established close connections. Before September 11, the IMU was an active participant in the
Taliban’s struggle to gain full control of Afghanistan against resistance forces in the northeast of
that country. Under Namangani’s command, an IMU force reportedly 3,000 to 5,000 strong
fought beside the Taliban regime against U.S. and Afghan forces in the campaign of late 2001.38
Some IMU forces reportedly remained with holdout Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan as late
as May 2002.39 Namangani’s reported death in the Afghan fighting had not been confirmed as of
September 2002. According to a July report from the National Security Council of Kyrgyzstan,
he had recovered from wounds sustained the previous winter and was gathering forces in the
Badakhshan region of Afghanistan.40
In 1999 stringent security procedures by the Uzbek armed forces, together with pressure
from the Tajikistan government to vacate bases in that country, caused the IMU to begin a quiet
infiltration into Kyrgyzstan.41 Kyrgyzstan also is a primary IMU target because it is the only
Central Asian country to allow the activity of Christian missionaries, a policy that stirs
resentment among Islamic fundamentalists.42 In 2001 the IMU mounted guerrilla attacks in
southwestern Kyrgyzstan from sleeper cells already in that country, rather than by moving
fighters across the border from Tajikistan as it had in the campaigns of 1999 and 2000. This new
stratagem is significant because it reduced pressure on the IMU from the Tajikistan government
and confirmed a permanent IMU presence in Kyrgyzstan.43
Establishment of a beachhead in Kyrgyzstan has been facilitated by inept and
uncoordinated border controls in the region where Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan meet.
According to Rashid, the mutual distrust among these three states and Uzbekistan’s unilateral
mining of its portion of the border have increased the incidence of the smuggling activity that

38
Armen Khanbabyan, “To the Evident Indifference of Moscow,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow], 6 February
2002, 5.
39
Todd Zeranski, “Al-Qaeda Ally in Central Asia Poses Lingering Threat, Bloomberg News, 12 March 2002; report
in Izvestinya-Kazakhstan [Almaty], 15 May 2002 (FBIS Document CEP2002052000087).
40
RFE/RL Newsline, 6, no. 138, pt. 1 (25 July 2002).
41
Svante E. Cornell and Regine A. Spector, “Central Asia: More than Islamic Extremists,” The Washington
Quarterly, 25, no. 1 (2002).
42
Ahmed Rashid, Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (New Haven and London: Yale University
Press, 2002), 130.
43
Rashid, Jihad, 181-82.
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13
supports the IMU. It also has disrupted the legitimate trans-border trade that is the foundation of
the region’s economy, thus exacerbating the poverty that fosters extremist recruitment.44
Throughout the summer of 2002, Kazakh and Kyrgyz newspapers reported a concentration of
1,500 to 5,000 IMU fighters in the valleys of the Alay Mountain chain just south of the Fergana
Valley, presumably the result of successful regional recruiting in preparation for another summer
offensive into the Kyrgyz and Uzbek parts of the valley.45 As of early September 2002, no such
offensive had been reported.

Narcotics and the IMU
Besides depending on money from bin Laden and sources in Saudi Arabia, IMU funding
is known to rely heavily on narcotics trafficking, using connections that Namangani developed in
Afghanistan and Tajikistan during his pre-IMU participation in the Tajik civil war (1992-97).
Regional expert Frederick Starr has characterized the relationships that have developed around
the IMU as a “potent amalgam of personal vendetta, Islamism, drugs, geopolitics, and
terrorism.”46 Both before and after the founding of the IMU in 1998, Namangani developed
enclaves stretching from Tavildara west of Dushanbe to the Sukh and Vorukh enclaves, which
are tiny territorial islands and hotbeds of radical Islam located in far southwestern Kyrgyzstan,
just south of the Fergana Valley. Those enclaves also are centers of hostility among the three
states because they belong respectively to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Such hostility, which has
been fostered especially by Karimov’s intransigence on a number of regional issues, enables the
IMU to play one side against the other, gain influence with corrupt officials on all sides, and stir
anti-government resistance among the regional populations.47 This resistance has been bolstered
by the hospitality shown after September 11 by all three national regimes who agreed to the
stationing of United States troops on their soil for the Afghanistan campaign that began in the
fall of 2001.

44
Rashid, Jihad, 161.
45
Report in Izvestiya-Kazakhstan, 15 May 2002; report in Karavan [Almaty], 3 May 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020509000180).
46
Zeranski.
47
Rashid, Jihad, 161.
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14
State corruption has played a role in the IMU’s success. Based on its role in the civil war,
the IMU now has “contacts in Tajikistan’s highest echelons of power,”48 who are bribed to
protect narcotics routes. The Tajik government still does not exercise significant control outside
the immediate area of Dushanbe, relying heavily on Russian troops and border guards.
According to a 2002 analysis, more than half of Afghanistan’s opium exports move
through Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Between 1998 and 1999, a critical point at which the IMU
was using its network of militants and its contacts with Chechen guerrillas to expand its narcotics
sales, the production of opium in Afghanistan nearly doubled. The IMU is known to control
opium movement through these Central Asian routes, including as much as 70 percent of the
opium trade entering Kyrgyzstan. As a result of the narcotics route from Uzbekistan’s border
with Afghanistan across Uzbekistan through Bukhara and Urgench to Nukus in the western
province of Karakalpakstan and thence into Kazakhstan and Russia, the volume of narcotics
traffic into Kyrgyzstan increased significantly after 1999.49
In 2001 the IMU reportedly set up heroin refining laboratories in Tajikistan. In July of
that year, Russian border guards seized 2.4 tons of raw opium on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan
border, a sign that opium was being processed in Tajikistan.50 The movement of narcotics
through Tajikistan is facilitated by paying off Tajik officials and members of the Russian
military. Reportedly, military vehicles returning to Moscow from supply missions in Central
Asia are used to transport narcotics to that major center of international trafficking.51 Reports
also say that military helicopters and other forms of military transport are used to move large
amounts of narcotics from Tajikistan to population centers in Russia.52
According to regional expert Martha Brill Olcott, the IMU’s manpower base was
significantly scattered and reduced by the results of the Afghan conflict.53 For that reason, the
organization’s resumption of a full-fledged campaign to gain control of the Fergana Valley in
2002 has been considered doubtful. Although the long-term effect of the Afghan campaign on

48
Cornell and Spector.
49
V. Januzakov, chief of national security force of Kyrgyzstan, speech to international forum, “Strategy for
Combating Terrorism: Political-Legal Mechanisms,” Bishkek, 19 October 2001 (FBIS Document
CEP2001109000271).
50
Rashid, Jihad, 165-66.
51
Cornell and Spector.
52
“Tajik Drug Dealer on Heroin Movement to Russia, Routes, Methods Used”; report from Stringer News Agency
website, 12 February 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020219000161).
53
Interview with Martha Brill Olcott and other experts, The News Hour (PBS), 12 March 2002.
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15
the IMU is unknown, the organization has lost its military bases and Taliban support in
Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. However, the IMU reportedly still was recruiting new
members, receiving aid from al-Qaeda, and fanning anti-American sentiment in mid-2002.
Kyrgyzstan continued to be an important bastion of the group.54 Both the United States presence
in Central Asia and the ongoing economic crisis in the Fergana region have contributed to the
success of IMU’s most recent recruiting campaigns. In strongly Islamic areas of the Fergana
Valley, the IMU has found a ready audience for its accusation that the Uzbek government sold
itself to the “infidel” by aiding the United States war against terrorism.55
The effect of military losses on the group’s narcotics trade is unknown. In early 2002,
Russian authorities reported an increased flow of narcotics across the Afghanistan-Tajikistan
border.56 In May 2002, the Central Asia Project of the Soros Foundation recognized the
resiliency of the IMU and stated: “The rapid expansion of opium and heroin trafficking out of
Afghanistan indicates that Islamic radicals will have access to funds to pay and equip new
recruits.”57
Ahmed Rashid asserts that the political arm of the IMU under Yuldashev has been a
distinct branch of the organization and therefore has survived the military losses incurred in
Afghanistan. If that is so, and assuming that the IMU has retained some of its connections in
Afghanistan, the organization likely has not lost the narcotics phase of its financial underpinning.
(Other drug trafficking organizations remain active in the region and could be responsible for the
increased traffic in 2002. See descriptions of Central Asian trafficking routes and methods
elsewhere in this report.) Tamara Makarenko speculates that IMU’s trafficking activity is more
likely to continue if the guerrilla leader Namangani remains in command than if the Islamic
ideologist Yuldashev takes his place. The latter eventuality, she asserts, would make the IMU
more a purely terrorist organization, and less a “gang of guerrillas,” than it has been heretofore.58
(Narcotics sales have helped Namangani to pay his recruits regularly, a practice frowned upon by

54
“Banned Islamic Movement Still ‘Real Threat’ to Uzbek Security—Kazakh Paper,” BBC Monitoring Central Asia
Unit; based on report in Karavan [Almaty], 1 March 2002.
55
Artie McConnell, “Islamic Radicals Regroup in Central Asia,” 15 May 2002, online report of Eurasia Insight.

56
“Tajik Drug Trade Thriving in Northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan,” Monitor, 22 January 2002.
57
McConnell.
58
Tamara Makarenko, “The Changing Dynamics of Central Asian Terrorism,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 13, no. 2
(February 2002).
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16
many Islamic terrorist groups.) However, Makarenko concludes that “any resurgent IMU will
likely continue their involvement in the lucrative regional drugs trade.”59

Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT)
A second Islamic organization, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (also seen as Hizb-al-Tahrir and the
full form, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami, to be shortened henceforth in this treatment as HT), has
become the most widespread underground Islamic movement in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and
Kyrgyzstan. In mid-2002, increased activity also was reported in Kazakhstan.60 Founded in 1953
by Palestinians in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the HT espouses the doctrine of jihad in Central Asia
and establishment of Islamic caliphates throughout the Muslim world. The HT is violently
opposed to the Shia variety of Islam, which is followed by significant populations in Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan.61 The HT claims to be the one true path of Islam, in the face of which all other
radical Muslim movements will be proven wrong.62
Rashid calls the HT “probably the most esoteric and anachronistic of all the radical
Islamic movements in the world today.”63 Although Rashid notes that the HT’s doctrine “largely
does not even address central issues of public concern in Central Asia,” he judges that the HT
sees Central Asia as ripe for takeover by its form of jihad.64 The Central Asian phase of the
movement, which was first identified in Uzbekistan in 1995, is centered in the Fergana Valley
among educated urban youth.65 The HT also has developed a substantial following among the
rural poor in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.66
Like the IMU, the HT has been persecuted in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, where
thousands of group members have been imprisoned. As the IMU’s strength waned after the
group’s defeats in Afghanistan, the Uzbekistan government concentrated its attention more fully

59
Tanara Makarenko, “Bumper Afghan Narcotics Crop Indicates Resilience of Networks,” Jane’s Intelligence
Review, 13, no. 5 (May 2002).
60
“Pakistani Islamists Active in Kazakhstan?” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, 6, no. 129, pt. 1 (12 July
2002).
61
Rashid, Jihad, 123.
62
Rashid, Jihad, 123-24.
63
Rashid, “A Peaceful Jihad, But There Will Be War,” Daily Telegraph [London], 23 January 2002.
64
Rashid, Jihad, 115.
65
Cornell and Spector.
66
“Wanted Uzbek Islamic Leader May Be Still Alive,” Megapolis [Almaty], 2 February 2002.
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17
on HT. Kyrgyzstan has taken a much more lenient approach toward the HT than Uzbekistan,
however, in the belief that imprisonment of first-time offenders radicalizes the population.67
The HT is organized in secretive, small cells of five to seven members; only the cell chief
has contact with the next level of the organization. Unlike the IMU, the HT’s doctrine does not
approve violent measures to gain political control in the Islamic world, relying instead on
distribution of propaganda materials and personal contact to gain converts. However, Rashid
warns that the young extremists who increasingly are attracted to HT may react to ongoing
persecution by the Karimov and Akayev regimes (Uzbekistan began mass arrests of HT
members in 199968) by embracing terrorist activities like those of the IMU. Said one of Rashid’s
informants, “If the IMU suddenly appears in the Fergana Valley, HT activists will not sit idly by
and allow the security forces to kill them.”69 In October 2001, the HT website declared, “A state
of war exists between [the United States] and all Muslims.”70 Rashid reports that some HT
members were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and were in contact with IMU troops in
2001.71
In June 2002, the Danish government considered banning HT because HT’s Danish-
language literature and website has instructed members to kill Jews wherever they find them.72
Sharpening rhetoric enough to elicit this Danish response may be part of an overall radicalization
of the strategy of HT, which has had a substantial presence in Western Europe for some time.
Alternatively, HT—always seeking to broaden the base of its support─may simply be courting
the rising anti-Semitic block of public opinion that has been reported recently in Europe.
The transformation of the HT into a terrorist organization would be a dangerous event in
Central Asia for several reasons. First, HT’s secretive and decentralized structure make its
activities very hard to track. Second, the HT has many more members than the IMU (an
estimated 60,000 in Uzbekistan and 20,000 each in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). The HT also has
set up offices and proselytized successfully in the United Kingdom and Germany. Third, the

67
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, (Un-)Civil Societies, 3, no. 29 (17 July 2002).
68
Vitaliy Ponomarev, “Islom Karimov Against Hizb al-Tahrir;” report by Memorial Human Rights Center
(Moscow), 19 December 2001.
69
Rashid, “A Peaceful Jihad, But There Will Be War.
70
Quoted in Adam Karatnycky, “Bush’s Uzbekistan Test,” Christian Science Monitor, 13 March 2002, 9.
71
Rashid, Jihad, 133.
72
“Public Prosecutor Investigating Hizb-ut-Tahrir Affair,” Berlingske Tidende [Copenhagen], 30 May 2002 (FBIS
Document EUP20020530000286).
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chief of the national security forces of Kyrgyzstan has claimed that the HT’s propaganda
activities against the Kyrgyz government are funded by laundered money from narcotics sales,
aided by al-Qaeda’s having “placed the well organized drug trafficking in their [HT’s]service.”73
There is little documentation of present HT narcotics activities. According to Rashid, the
substantial funding behind HT’s well organized education and indoctrination programs comes
mainly from diaspora Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Western Europe. However, Rashid
speculates that some HT cells are engaging in narcotics sales, using the same infrastructure as the
IMU and other trafficking organizations in the region.74 Presumably, HT’s adoption of violent
tactics against one or more Central Asian regimes would constitute a new linkage between
organized crime and terrorism.
The IMU has strong reasons to follow the same pragmatic pattern with the HT as it
followed with the Taliban in the late 1990s: alliance with a group that is different in ethnicity,
origin, and overall goals, when a common enemy and common support networks are identified.
Increasingly, the IMU and the HT have a shared identity as victims of repressive Central Asian
regimes, whose rhetoric and enforcement strategy has been essentially the same for both groups.
In 1999 the Uzbekistan government accused the HT of responsibility for an assassination attempt
against Karimov, justifying a wave of arrests that followed. From that time, the Karimov regime
and that of President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan have lumped together the HT and the IMU as
terrorist organizations and enemies of their respective states, and the groups have shared the
abysmal prison conditions and human rights violations resulting from that status.75 Both groups
have reacted to the arrival of U.S. troops in Central Asia with strong anti-American rhetoric.

Trafficking by Crime Groups
All sources identify a significant, ongoing increase in the flow of narcotics by train,
truck, and air into Russia from Afghanistan through Central Asia. According to regional crime
expert Tamara Makarenko, in recent years the so-called northern route through Central Asia
increasingly has replaced the Balkan Route in moving narcotics from Afghanistan and Pakistan
to Western Europe. Makarenko identifies four causes for such a shift: an effective anti-narcotics

73
Januzakov.
74
Personal communication from Ahmed Rashid, 21 March 2002.
75
Ponomarev.
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19
initiative that has blocked routes through Iran; increased opium production in Afghanistan,
necessitating expansion of traffic; the favorable atmosphere for trafficking (deteriorating socio-
economic conditions and poor enforcement) created in Central Asia by the collapse of the Soviet
Union; and the development of trafficking networks by regional criminal organizations in
Central Asia and the Caucasus.76 Individual entrepreneurs, especially Tajiks, have benefited from
these conditions to establish and expand narcotics delivery networks that terminate with a “final
seller” in Moscow or St. Petersburg.77 General Konstantin Totskiy, chief of the Russian Federal
Border Service, estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the heroin that arrives in Russia moves
westward to European markets.78
The modus operandi of trafficking along these routes can be pieced together from
anecdotal evidence. In February 2002, Russian journalist Yuriy Spirin interviewed a Tajik who
runs a regular wholesale narcotics smuggling route beginning in northern Tajikistan and
terminating in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the particularly complete account of that source,
some figures may be assumed to be exaggerated but the fundamental structure is credible.
Although by 2000 trains, airplanes, and helicopters reportedly were replacing trucks as the
preferred method of narcotics shipment,79 this account captures the entrepreneurial spirit that
seems to pervade at least the Tajik trafficking activities. Notable in this account is the lack of
references to Russian traffickers at any stage.
The shipments reported by Spirin’s source accompany truckloads of fruit and vegetables,
a type of cargo that has been moving legitimately along the same roads from Tajikistan to Siberia
and the Urals since the Soviet era. Roles in the delivery system through Tajikistan are
determined by that country’s geographic and clan divisions between north and south. This
individual, who operates from northern Tajikistan, receives his heroin from dealers in the south
(identified as members of the Kulyab clans), who have smuggled it from Afghanistan. In summer
the heroin moves from southern to northern Tajikistan over mountain passes; in winter, the
smugglers use small airplanes or military helicopters to cross the mountains that divide northern

76
Makarenko, “Traffickers Turn from Balkan Conduit to ‘Northern’ Route.”
77
“Police Seize Wholesale Supply of Heroin,” Moskovskiy Komsomolets [Moscow], 29 April 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020430000354).
78
Judith Ingram, “Russia: Boost Anti-Drug Effort,” Associated Press report, 9 July 2002.
79
Olcott and Udalova.
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20
and southern Tajikistan. All of these deliveries are made to three cities in northern Tajikistan.80
Although the smuggler declined to identify them, those cities most likely are Khujand,
Chkalovsk, and Ura-Tyube.
In those cities, the heroin is packed into shipments of produce; then it moves by truck
northward into Russia via Kazakhstan (most frequently through Kustanay or Pavlodar) or via
Osh, Jalalabad, and Batken in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Routes through Uzbekistan have been
effectively shut down by Uzbek border patrols, whose resistance can be overcome only by
excessively high bribes. In the first half of 2002, the unavailability of Uzbek routes, together
with pressure from a large reserve supply of heroin in Afghanistan and ongoing corruption and
uncertainty among Kyrgyz authorities, has spurred a significant increase in the volume of
narcotics moving through Kyrgyzstan.81 Some Tajik produce shippers also have begun driving
narcotics directly to the more lucrative markets of Europe via Finland, whose border controls are
lax according to Spirin’s informant. The trucks that go to Russia unload their legal and illegal
cargo in cities such as Ufa, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, and Sverdlovsk, which are narcotics transit
points for Moscow and St. Petersburg. As authorities impose more formidable obstacles to such
trade, both rail and road routes have become more indirect.
At transit points, shipments are divided into small packets, most of which are sent by
train to the two main distribution centers. Upon arrival in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the small
packets are brought by individual “mules” to a central point where the original shipment is
reassembled by the Tajik smuggler and then sold to a Chechen dealer. The smuggler launders his
profits from heroin sales through two boutiques in St. Petersburg, through the sale of his fruit in
the Urals, and by buying medicine in Russia and reselling it in Tajikistan. According to this
source, the great majority of Tajiks in Russia are somehow involved in the narcotics trade.82 The
system of laundering narcotics profits in Tajikistan has proven very lucrative for Tajik
traffickers.83

80
Yuriy Spirin, “Heroin Heroes;” report of Stringer News Agency [Moscow], 12 February 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020219000161).
81
“The Drug flow from Afghanistan Is Skyrocketing!” Website report of Kyrgyz newspaper Delo No, 24 April 2002
(FBIS Document CEP20020425000145), and Mashad, Iranian radio broadcast, 20 January 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020121000197).
82
Spirin.
83
“Arrest Illegal Capital but Grant No Amnesty,” Asia-Plus [Dushanbe], 18 April 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020427000054).
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The bribing of authorities is considered a standard cost of doing business. The Russian
“police mafia,” present at all levels of law enforcement, is the form of Russian participation most
frequently mentioned in accounts of trafficking into Russia from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Even before leaving Tajikistan, the average total bribe payment per kilo of heroin is $3,700
($200 at the Afghan border, $1,500 on arrival in Dushanbe, $2,000 on arrival in northern
Tajikistan). Another $2,000 per kilo is needed on arrival in St. Petersburg and Moscow.84
Another, much larger payment to Chechen mafiosi may be necessary if a smuggler is arrested.
Customers for the Tajik shipments offer a variety of prices. In the bargaining process that
determines the terms of each sale, buyers who have connections in high places use the security of
those links to drive down prices; buyers lacking such connections offer higher prices but higher
risk as well. Smaller amounts of heroin are flown on commercial aircraft from Dushanbe to
Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. However, that route is limited because airport police in
Moscow often arrest smugglers rather than demanding a bribe.85
Spirin’s informant also alluded to the role of the Tajik and Russian military forces in
moving narcotics from Tajikistan to Russia. Officers of the Tajik armed forces, he said, provide
Russian weapons to Afghan warlords in exchange for narcotics, then sell the narcotics to the
Russian military. Russian military aircraft then move the drugs from the Afghanistan-Tajikistan
border directly to Russia. The source estimates that such military shipments total ten times the
amount moving along the ground routes, which the source estimates at 21 tons per year. The
Kulyabi dealers of southern Tajikistan also take advantage of the dominance of their fellow
clansmen in the Tajik military to ship their merchandise directly from the south to Moscow,
leapfrogging the overland route described above. A major transit point on the air route between
Tajikistan and Moscow is the Chkalovskiy military airfield near Moscow, but military shipments
also fly to other cities in Russia.86
Access by the Russian military to narcotics routes in Central Asia also has produced
some individual enterprises. In April 2002, authorities in Tver’ arrested Vitaliy Fedorkov, a
cashiered enlisted man whose small but competent group of four allegedly had gained a large
section of the local heroin market. Fedorkov reportedly had used connections from his military

84
Spirin.
85
Spirin.
86
Spirin.
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22
service in Tajikistan to import high-quality heroin that proved popular in Tver’.87 Although
Fedorkov may have been identified to police by a rival dealer, the development of such an
enterprise in a large metropolis indicates the diversity of current trafficking patterns into Russia
from other CIS republics.
The route structure described by this and other sources implies that the major groups that
receive narcotics in Russia—whatever their ethnic background—have limited control of
operations at the other end of the route in Central Asia or at any intermediate point. The overall
smuggling procedure has been refined and regularized by those who carry it out. Says a 2002
Russian newspaper account, “The border guards in Tajikistan are confronted by an international
criminal army with a ramified and precisely operating structure.”88 Carriers of narcotics into
Tajikistan from Afghanistan now are escorted by armed patrols that run interference if the
shipment encounters border patrols. However, that system seems to have been worked out on the
ground, independent of final buyers in Russia.
Vasiliy Sorokin, chief narcotics officer of the Moscow Main Administration for Internal
Affairs, has estimated that an “Afghan-Tajik group of about 1,500” is responsible for bringing
about 90 percent of the heroin that arrives in Moscow from Afghanistan. However, the more
detailed breakdown provided by Spirin’s informant and by Sorokin himself indicates that this
overall group is subdivided into several specializations. According to Sorokin, wholesale
distribution of the drug once in Moscow is the province of a group from Azerbaijan.89 However,
some overlapping of territory in Moscow between Tajik and Azeri groups is indicated by a
longstanding feud between Vagid, the Azeri kingpin of wholesale heroin distribution in Moscow,
and his Tajik suppliers. The two groups may have reached an agreement early in 2002.90
Sorokin’s description does not account for the Chechen mafia, but it does tend to confirm that
Russian groups are not a major factor in the connection between Central Asia and Moscow.

87
Roman Ukolov, “The Intelligent, the Kind, and the Eternal Are Exchanged for Heroin: Teacher and Nurse
Arrested for Drug Dealing in Tver’,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow], 6 April 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020409000034).
88
Valeriy Meshkov, “Dope on the Rampage,” Tribuna [Moscow], 17 January 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020117000364).
89
Anna Selivanova, “War in Afghanistan not Preventing Heroin Supplies to Capital,” Komsomol’skaya Pravda
[Moscow], 17 January 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020117000203).
90
Andrey Salnikov, “Police Thwart Tajik-Azerbaijani Talks,” Kommersant [Moscow], 4 February 2002 (FBIS
Document CEP20020205000110).
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Anecdotal evidence indicates that Central Asian carriers know where to bring their
product, but each delivery seems to include substantial uncertainty about price and conditions.
This evidence, together with reports about territorial battles among criminal groups, indicates
that some aspects of the “system” are fluid and its practitioners pragmatic in jumping the hurdles
they encounter. The only exception may be deliveries made from Central Asia to Russia by
military transport, a method that eliminates the variables presented by border crossings and
possible police inspections on the road. In that case, individuals of the same organization
(corrupt members of the Russian armed forces) would be in control from a pickup point in
Tajikistan, most likely Dushanbe, to a delivery point in Russia such as the Chkalovskiy military
air base. Presumably, the military eventually sells its merchandise to the same basic group of
powerful dealers as do the individual Central Asian fruit merchants.

THE ROLE OF CHECHENS IN NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING
Chechens are the national group most widely reported to be involved in narcotics
trafficking in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and virtually all regions of Russia. (In using Russian
reports on this subject, however, such generalizations must take into account the likelihood of
anti-Chechen bias, which is significant in most parts of Russia.) The direct association of drug
trafficking with Chechnya’s struggle for independence seems to be increasingly tenuous. The
Republic of Chechnya’s first war with Russia, 1994-96, was heavily funded by a variety of
rackets and the tapping of oil lines. However, the second war, which began in 1999, benefited
from a major new support: the large financial resources of the Jordanian militant Khattab, who
joined forces in 1999 with the Chechen guerrilla commander Shamil Basayev and immediately
became a dominant figure in the struggle. As this happened, Chechen figures such as Ruslan
Gelayev, who had been a field commander for Chechen guerrilla leader Dzhokar Dudayev in the
first war, were marginalized and concentrated more fully on the narcotics trade.91
The domination by Chechen groups, even over the Russian mafia, in narcotics trafficking
is based on relationships that have developed over time, irrespective of the struggles of their
homeland. According to a 2002 study by Roustam Kaliyev, in the 1990s the “market share” and

91
Patrick Armstrong, “How to Turn a Local War into Part of the International Jihad,” Research and Analytical
Supplement, no. 7 (April 2002).
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influence of traditional, Russia-based criminal organizations in activities such as narcotics
trafficking diminished in all of the former Soviet Union. Among the “classic” groups thus
affected, Kaliyev names the Solntsevo, Tambov, Tula, and Armenian mafias, all of which have
been active in the drugs trade. Such groups lost influence because of the post-Soviet decline of
the symbiotic relationship that gave government protection to organized criminals with
“connections” in exchange for limited control by the government over mafia activities and
expansion.
In the 1990s, the opening of Russia’s economy invited new groups into this territory.
New businesses and reconstituted government agencies staked out parts of criminal markets, and
protection payments (the krysha or “roof”) became a lucrative source of revenue in the
unregulated commercial environment of the 1990s. According to Kaliyev, the substantial
community of Chechen businessmen in the FSU organized together to resist pressure to pay
protection money. As they organized successfully to limit the influence of existing gangs,
Chechen groups themselves moved into the business of protection, and ultimately into other
organized crime activities. Khozni Nukhayev, the mafia supporter of narcotics trafficker and
sometime Chechen guerrilla fighter Ruslan Gelayev, got his start in the protection racket. The
Chechen groups that formed in this way eventually added individuals of other nationalities,
primarily Armenians, Georgians, Russians, and Ukrainians.92
Another type of organization emerged in the 1990s to partially supplant the conventional
Russian syndicates and compete with Chechen groups in the illegal narcotics markets. Members
of the Ministry of the Interior’s security forces, the Federal Security Service, and private security
services (collectively called the “police mafia”) began to utilize their positions of authority to
extort protection payment from legitimate businesses and bribes from criminals such as narcotics
traffickers. The continued presence of such Russian security cadres in Chechnya, Armenia,
Georgia, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan has made them able to offer protection that yields a share of
narcotics profits. According to Kaliyev, such groups also themselves run criminal enterprises.
They now also share uneasily the markets in the former Soviet Union with the Chechen groups:
Arrests and the planting of drugs, which are two primary weapons of security organizations in

92
Roustam Kaliyev, “How the Mafias Were Formed,” pt. 1 of “Russia’s Organized Crime: A Typology,” Eurasia
Insight, 17 June 2002.
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this territorial struggle, target large numbers of law-abiding Chechens as well as Chechen
criminal groups.93
The dominant role of Chechen groups on the Russian end of the Central Asian narcotics
routes was confirmed by the unidentified Tajik drug trafficker interviewed by Yuriy Spirin.
Asserting that he sold most of his merchandise in Russia to Chechens rather than to Russians, the
trafficker said of the former, “The ones I cooperate with are very strong gangs involved in
robberies, bank scams, and legal business. They have great connections among the police and
among functionaries at all levels. Thanks to those connections, the Chechens can save you from
any kind of trouble....If one is in real trouble, one takes a suitcase of dollars and goes cap in hand
to the Chechens and solves the problems with their help. It is difficult to work without their
help—we are too small. Tajik groupings as such do not exist.”94
Narcotics trafficking by Chechens has extended as far as Murmansk on the far
northwestern Kola Peninsula. Beginning in 1997, the Murmansk province’s Internal Affairs
Administration was run by a Russian, Colonel Plugin, who brought with him many of his former
Chechen comrades from the Internal Affairs Administration of the Republic of Chechnya.
Although the local police had run numerous rackets in the region, Plugin’s arrival brought the
first large-scale heroin trafficking in Murmansk Oblast. Reportedly, the man who exerted real
power behind Plugin was a Chechen, Vaskha Askhabov. Eventually, the regional Administration
for Combating Organized Crime arrested Askhabov, and Plugin resigned. Askhabov, apparently
benefiting from connections high in the federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, was freed in
Moscow after a short time, despite voluminous evidence of his criminal activities in
Murmansk.95

NARCOTICS MARKETS IN THE CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS
Increased trafficking across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan also has meant
expansion of narcotics markets within those countries.96 The same enforcement problems that

93
Kaliyev.
94
Spirin.
95
Mikhail Lvov, “The Northwest: The Criminal Element,” Freelance Bureau [Moscow] Internet report, 10 June
2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020613000225).
96
“Afghanistan Political Revival Seen Letting Central Asian Drugs Traffic Flourish,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta
[Moscow], 4 February 2002.
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allow large-scale trafficking through those countries have permitted widespread sales within
their borders. Recent drops in the price of heroin have made it available to a wider range of
users. According to the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, in mid-
2002 Kazakhstan had an estimated 186,000 narcotics addicts, Kyrgyzstan had 80,000 to 100,000,
Uzbekistan had 65,000 to 91,000, and Uzbekistan had 45,000 to 55,000.97 However, the Centre
for Medical and Social Problems of Drug Addiction in Kazakhstan estimates that there are more
than 250,000 addicts in Kazakhstan;98 similar disparities are likely to exist for the other
republics. The number of trafficking groups already was increasing in the late 1990s, when
Kyrgyzstan reported 64 groups and Kazakh authorities identified 125 groups moving drugs in
Central Asia.99 In 2001 about 3 percent of people arrested in for drug-related offenses in
Kazakhstan were foreigners; Kyrgyz and Russians comprised most of that number.100 However,
such statistics are skewed by the tendency for “little fish” to be caught and identified while the
“big fish” remain anonymous.
As Uzbekistan has applied pressure to its domestic trafficking routes and, with less
success, to the Tajik government to improve its interdiction activity, Kyrgyzstan has become a
primary center of all aspects of the narcotics industry: manufacture, sale, and drug trafficking.
Kyrgyzstan’s location adjacent to major routes across the Tajik mountains from Afghanistan
combines with ineffectual domestic smuggling controls to attract figures from what a Kyrgyz
newspaper report characterized as “an international organization uniting an unprecedentedly
wide circle of members in the United States, Romania, Brazil, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.”
Authorities also identified at least one Nigerian who had established an identity as a legitimate
businessman in Bishkek and developed a profitable narcotics enterprise behind this facade. Says
the report, “These are no half-literate Tajik-Afghan drug runners, but professionals who have
passed through a probation period in the mafia clans of the world narcotics system....”101
Although a variety of non-Kyrgyz mafiosi obviously are taking advantage of
Kyrgyzstan’s vulnerability, the specific place of Russian organizations in the complex of

97
Interfax [Moscow] report of analysis by United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, 27 June
2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020627000105).
98
Internet report from Kazakhstan Today [Almaty], 26 June 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020626000186).
99
Olcott and Udalova, 18.
100
Report by Interfax-Kazakhstan agency [Almaty], 14 May 2002 (FBIS Document 20020515000042).
101
Aleksandr Gold, “Bishkek, Heroin, Interpol?” Vecherniy Bishkek [Bishkek], 28 December 2001 (FBIS Document
CEP 20020107000187).
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narcotics operations is not clear. Kyrgyzstan generally provides more information about such
matters than the other Central Asian republics; the situation in the other republics is even more
opaque.

DISTRIBUTION POINTS AND ROUTES IN RUSSIA
Reports of increased heroin addiction in and around cities designated as transit points
indicate that Moscow and St. Petersburg do not receive all of the narcotics shipped to Russia
from Central Asia. According to Vladislav Ignatov, a narcotics expert in the State Duma, such
widely distributed regions as the Khanty-Mansi and Yamalo-Nenets national districts (in the
European far north and Western Siberia, respectively); the Primor’ye and Khabarovsk territories
in the Far East; and the Tyumen’, Kemerovo, Sverdlovsk, Novosibirsk, Samara, Ul’yanovsk,
Volgograd, and Rostov provinces (concentrated in Western Siberia and the European south)
showed substantial increases in narcotics addiction in 2001, and the Far East has developed into
a major distribution center. Ignatov attributes growth in the Far East to organized criminal
groups rather than individual dealers.102
Several cities in southwestern Russia have reported extensive drug trafficking and a
significant upsurge in narcotics addiction since the beginning of the second Chechen war in
1999. That activity has been traced to trafficking routes passing through one or more of the
former Soviet Caucasus republics and Chechnya and then into Russia through Dagestan and
Ingushetia. According to Mikhail Fetisov, a representative of President Vladimir Putin in the
Southern Federal District of Russia, in recent years many urban centers in the southern part of
the country have seen rapid increases in drug addiction, drug-related HIV infection, and drug-
related crime. The Southern District includes all of the Russian republics bordering the Caucasus
(Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachayevo-Cherkessiya).
Fetisov identifies the source of such problems as a wide variety of narcotics moving from
Central Asia into Russia directly and via Azerbaijan. Tajikistan is identified as the largest source
in Central Asia. The recent trend in the region is toward hard drugs, as higher volumes make
prices accessible to more potential users. Fetisov also blames the passivity of law enforcement

102
American University, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, Vladivostok Center for Research on
Organized Crime, “Summary of Crime in the Region for 2001.”
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officials in the region. Among Russian cities most affected in the Southern District have been
Volgograd, Novocherkassk, Astrakhan, and Rostov.103 Several sources identify Astrakhan,
located on main transport lines from Central Asia into Russia, as a central distribution point in
the overall lines connecting Central Asia and the West. Authorities in the lower Krasnodar
Territory, which borders the Caucasus Mountains on the south, also have reported substantial
increases in drug-related crime and terrorist acts, both of which they attribute to criminal groups
in the Caucasus.104
The Republic of Kalmykia also is located in the Southern Federal District. Located at the
northern end of the Caspian Sea north of Chechnya and Dagestan, Kalmykia is along the route
connecting Central Asia with Astrakhan and the North Caucasus. In recent years, Kalmykia has
become an important distribution point for drugs moving northward and eastward to other points
in Russia. In the spring of 2002, local police officials were under investigation for protecting
traffickers.105
Authorities in the Republic of North Ossetia, which borders Chechnya, Ingushetia, and
Georgia, also report significant increases in drug trafficking by criminal organizations. Although
blaming this phenomenon on the republic’s proximity to Chechnya, the North Ossetian
authorities have not determined how many groups are active or what their composition is.
Authorities claim to have stopped the activity of “several” criminal groups, including the
powerful Gesov gang. It is known that a large criminal organization, active in several regions of
southwestern Russia, has a branch in Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia.106
In March 2002, a narcotics control official in the Republic of Dagestan identified
corruption in the local police and republic officials as the primary reason for recent increases in
drug traffic entering the republic from Central Asia via Ingushetia and Chechnya. In 2001 drug

103
Mariya Bondarenko, “The North Caucasus Is the Hottest Region When It Comes to Drugs Too,” Nezavisimaya
Gazeta [Moscow], 15 April 2002, HTML version (FBIS Document CEP20020416000232); and Aleksandr
Shapovalov, “Gypsy-Cossack War on Don; Drug Trafficking Cause of Confrontation,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta
[Moscow], 26 February 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020226000277).
104
Nina Semenenko, “Caucasus Is Our Common Home,” Kommersant [Moscow], 29 March 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020329000221).
105
Aleksandr Bezmenov, “Kalmyk Drugs Cartel Delivers Retaliatory Strike,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta [Moscow], 28
May 2002 (FBIS Document CEP20020529000187).
106
Artur Atayev, “There Is No Organized Crime,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Moscow], 5 March 2002 (FBIS Document
20020305000162).
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seizures by Dagestani authorities were more than twice as large as those in the previous years.107
The primary transport line into Dagestan passes from Tajikistan through Uzbekistan or
Kazakhstan, to Astrakhan and then through Ingushetia. According to the source, heroin and
opium from Central Asia is distributed in Dagestan by small dealers who are connected at some
point to “big fish,” but local authorities have no ability to even identify the latter individuals.108
As the nascent Far Eastern market for Central Asian heroin grows, cities such as
Khabarovsk and Vladivostok are likely to become important distribution points for shipments to
Korea and Japan, although local markets are thriving as well. According to one report, in the
Russian Far East “The proliferation of heroin addiction...has triggered such a sharp increase in
drug-related crime that police have little time to deal with much else.” Authorities attribute
spiraling addiction rates in the region to an influx of gangs from all the Central Asian republics
except Turkmenistan, as well as Azerbaijan and Chechnya. These groups, which move heroin
from Afghanistan through Tajikistan and Kazakhstan to markets and transmission points on
Russia’s east coast, have been attracted by the “wild west” atmosphere of a remote region that
has escaped Moscow’s control and is known for the corruption of its law enforcement agencies.
Central Asian and Caucasus groups have wrested a substantial part of the region’s
narcotics trade away from previously dominant Russian groups. Chechen smugglers, who began
arriving in 1993, five years before the other ethnic groups appeared, have established the
strongest position; one sources estimates the Chechen diaspora in the Russian Far East at 30,000,
providing excellent cover for Chechen criminal groups. The newest arrivals are Kazakh, Kyrgyz,
and Uzbek groups, which also have gained a portion of the fast-growing narcotics trade of the
region.109 Russian gangs in the region now are more identified with the smuggling of seafood,
automobiles, and timber than with narcotics.

107
Report in Moskovskiy Komsomolets Dagestan [Makhachkala], 19 March 2002 (FBIS Document
CEP20020401000140).
108
Moskovskiy Komsomolets Dagestan.
109
Velisarios Kattoulas, “Russian Far East: Crime Central,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 30 May 2002.

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CONCLUSION
Narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan to Russia via Central Asia and the Caucasus has
increased substantially in recent years, and there is no reason to predict a reversal of that trend in
the near future. The reasons for such an increase are an unrelenting supply of opium in
Afghanistan, increased corruption and police inadequacy in the countries serving as transit
routes, and expanding demand for “hard drugs” in Russia and the European countries to its west.
The role of specifically Russian organized crime groups in trafficking through the transit
countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, or in selling narcotics within those countries, seems
to have diminished. A major cause of this trend is new competition from within Russia (corrupt
police and security organizations) and from movement into organized crime activities by well-
organized non-Russian groups.
The typical drug route from Afghanistan involves several links. The parts of the system
obviously work well together, make pragmatic adjustments, and have understood roles—
although turf battles have occurred. Azeris, Chechens, and Central Asians (especially Tajiks)
have assumed central roles in trafficking operations; no account of counter-narcotics operations
in Russia fails to mention individuals from one or more of those groups.
Given the recent trend toward transnational cooperation among crime organizations, it is
likely that to some extent Russian crime groups have become integrated into the trafficking
systems in the transit countries and in Russia, as groups of other nationalities have assumed more
dominant roles. In the transit countries, regional crime expert Tamara Makarenko makes a
distinction between the two geographic regions. She summarizes the Russian role as always
having been minimal in the Caucasus, where Georgians and Chechens traditionally have
dominated the drug trade. In the Central Asian states, Makarenko characterizes the Russian role
as diminishing but still present.110
The current role of regional terrorist organizations in Central Asia is a matter of
speculation, for two reasons. First, the status of the IMU, the only major extremist Islamic
organization known to have had a major narcotics operation in Central Asia, is unknown after the
military defeats suffered in 2001. Conditions in the region present an opportunity for the IMU to
expand trafficking, but realization of that opportunity depends on the group’s physical

110
Personal communication from Tamara Makarenko, 20 June 2002.
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31
capabilities and on the priorities of the group’s leaders. If physical capabilities are significantly
less and the group’s financial condition will support a new campaign in the Fergana Valley,
remaining capabilities could be focused on military rather than commercial operations, at least in
the short term. Second, the terrorist and narcotics activities of the second group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir,
are unknown. Current conditions could motivate the group to shift from its nonviolent policy and
to emulate the IMU by tapping the rich vein of narcotics in its region to fund a terrorist
campaign. The opportunity to profit from the narcotics trade is likely to remain for both groups
in the foreseeable future.

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