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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

NCJ Number
Glenn E. Curtis
Date Published
October 2002
39 pages
This report examines the role of Russian organized crime and Central Asian terrorist organizations in 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.
Although a variety of sources were used for this report, the focus was on current news accounts from the regions examined. Over the past 2 years, the narcotics smuggling routes established in Georgia in the 1990's have seen an increased volume of drug trafficking. In this enterprise Chechen guerrilla forces have apparently gained the advantage in the competition with conventional crime organizations. The Georgian Government's efforts to counter narcotics trafficking have increasingly deteriorated. Afghanistan continues to be a conduit for the flow of heroin through Central Asia into Russia and to the West. Trafficking routes through Central Asia and the Caucasus countries continue to diversify and expand, due largely to the smuggling of Afghan opium and chaotic conditions in transit countries. Members of several ethnic groups are major players in the narcotics trade based in Central Asia; Russian criminal organizations apparently have a diminishing role. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) relies heavily on drug trafficking through a number of central Asian routes as a means of funding military, political, and propaganda activities. As markets and processing capacity expand into new parts of Central Asia, the IMU has adjusted its military and trafficking activities to cope with interdiction in particular areas. The impact of military losses in Afghanistan on IMU's narcotics activity is not yet known 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. Its decentralized structure conceals its activities; individual cells may be involved in narcotics trafficking. HT's expanding appeal among the poor provides a strong recruiting base for potential terrorist activity. Although its operations have thus far relied on peaceful means to propagate its central mission of Islamic governance throughout Central Asia, ongoing repression in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan may drive some parts of the organization to engage in violence. 62 references