US airstrike killed 15 Turkistan Islamic Party fighters in Afghanistan
A Uighur terrorist from a videotape released by the Turkistan Islamic Party in 2008.
The US killed 15 foreign terrorists from a Central Asian jihadist group during an airstrike in northwestern Afghanistan earlier last week.
The Turkistan Islamic Party said that 15 of its members, including 13 Uighurs and two Turks, were killed during a Predator airstrike in Afghanistan. The al Qaeda-linked groups made the claim in a statement released on a website associated with the Turkistan Islamic Party, according to the SITE Institute.
Although the Turkistan Islamic Party did not specify where the fighters were killed, a senior Afghan police commander reported that a strike killed 15 Taliban fighters in Badghis province on Jan. 19.
"We got information through intelligence report about Taliban meeting in Khatawaran village of Balamirghab district and passed it on to international troops. NATO-led forces carried out air raids and killed 15 rebels," the Afghan police official told Xinhua.
The Turkistan Islamic Party, which is also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party or Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, operates primarily in China's western province of Xinjiang as well as in the Central Asian republics. The group seeks to establish an Islamic state in the region. The Turkistan Islamic Party has training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is known to operate in both countries.
The Turkistan Islamic Party has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the United States, China, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan.
Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party, is closely linked to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Haq, who is also known as Maimaitiming Maimaiti, became the leader of the terror group in late 2003 after Hassan Mahsum, the group's previous leader, was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan. Haq was appointed a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive leader council, in 2005, according to the US Treasury Department, which designated him as a global terrorist in April 2009. The United Nations also designated Haq as a terrorist leader.
Haq is considered influential enough in al Qaeda's leadership circles that he is dispatched to mediate between rival Taliban groups as well as to represent the Shura Majlis in important military matters. In June 2009, Haq was spotted in Pakistan's tribal areas attending an important meeting with Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan's overall Taliban commander who was killed in a US airstrike two months later. Haq and a senior delegation of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders traveled to Pakistan's tribal areas to discuss the Pakistani military's operation in South Waziristan. Among those in attendance were Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the deadly Haqqani Network; and Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda ideologue and propagandist.
The Treasury Department said Haq has sent operatives abroad to raise funds for attacks against Chinese interests both at home and abroad. He also is involved in the planning and execution of terror attacks, recruiting, and propaganda efforts. In early 2008, Haq openly threatened to conduct attacks at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Haq ran a training camp for his recruits at al Qaeda's camp in Tora Bora in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province prior to the US invasion in October 2001 [see LWJ report, "The Uighurs in their own words"]. He later reestablished camps for the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party in Pakistan's lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. Although the Chinese government has pressured Pakistan to dismantle the camps, they are said to be still in operation.