Abu Ibrahim al Almani, from an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan propaganda tape.
A German jihadist who fights with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan described his travels from Europe to Pakistan, which included a stop in Yemen and several meetings with Anwar al Awlaki, the wanted American-born terrorist.
The five-page statement was written by Yassin Chouka, a German citizen originally from Morocco who is better known as Abu Ibrahim al Almani. Abu Ibrahim’s statement, titled “Our Way to the IMU [Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan]” was produced by Jundallah Studios, a jihadist media outlet that has published propaganda tapes from the IMU in the past. Written in German, the statement was published on Islambruederschaft.com, a German-language website that supports the global jihad.
Abu Ibrahim and his brother, Mounir Chouka, who goes by the name Abu Adam, have been featured in IMU propaganda in the past. In January, Abu Adam announced the death of senior IMU and al Qaeda leader Bekkay Harrach. Abu Adam also provided voice-overs in a tape released in January that praised slain IMU terrorists from across the globe.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is an al Qaeda-affiliated group whose leadership cadre is based primarily in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The terror group operates primarily along the Afghan-Pakistani border and in northern Afghanistan. According to one estimate, more than 3,000 Uzbeks, Central Asian, and other foreign fighters belonging to the IMU are sheltering in North Waziristan.
The IMU’s former leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in a US Predator airstrike in South Waziristan in September 2009. Yuldashev sat on al Qaeda’s top council, the Shura Majlis. He has been replaced by Abu Usman Adil.
From Germany to Yemen
Abu Ibrahim said he documented the brothers’ travels to answer questions posed about them on Al Furqon, a popular jihadist forum.
“Increasingly, we get asked questions on the website www.furqon.com that … reach us personally,” Abu Ibrahim said. “As I have said before, we planned to answer many of these questions in the new year in order to inform the general population of the brothers and sisters. One of the frequently asked questions is about how it happened that we (especially my brother Abu Adam and I) decided to fight with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.”
Abu Ibrahim said that he and his brother “wanted then to go to one of the countries in which the jihad … is led.”
“Whether the trip was to Somalia, Palestine, Chechnya, or Indonesia played no role for us,” he continued. “The main thing was that we went there.”
He said that his first stop was Yemen, when he joined a “Jama’a,” or group, known as Al Murabitoon. The group fights alongside al Qaeda against the Yemeni government in the western province of Hadramout, a known haven for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“After a few months and after we knew Yemen better, we joined a Jama’a in Hadramout with the name Al Murabitoon,” Abu Ibrahim said. “This Jama’a is built on knowledge, has equipped itself with weapons, and fights side by side with Al Qaeda, with Allah’s help to overthrow the unfaithful government in Yemen.”
Abu Ibrahim claimed that Al Murabitoon carried out attacks against the US Embassy and the Presidential Palace Sana’a, and military bases and police stations. “The jihad in Yemen began, and my brother and I were unexpectedly right in the middle instead of nearby,” he said.
Meeting Anwar al Awlaki
While in Yemen, Abu Ibrahim claimed he met none other than Anwar al Awlaki, the American-born cleric who is at the top of the US government’s hit list for inspiring terror attacks on the homeland.
“During an indescribable adventure in Yemen, we had the honor of meeting one of the true scholars of our time, the Sheikh and the missionary Imam Anwar al Awlaki,” Abu Ibrahim said. “We could benefit much from him and spent precious hours with him.”
Abu Ibrahim said that Awlaki “was active in honey sales, [and] had joined forces with some virtuous, big businessmen in order to finance the jihad in Somalia and to send to the brothers in Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.”
From Yemen to Pakistan, and the IMU
After spending a year in Yemen, Awlaki advised Abu Ibrahim and Abu Adam to move to Afghanistan as Yemen was becoming unsafe for foreigners. Abu Ibrahim said the move to the Afghan-Pakistani border area took a month, and he described it as “very professionally organized.”
“Our journey lasted exactly one month and was very professionally organized. In the various countries, there were intermediate stations at which they were cared for, we got new travel documents, and, at a particular point in time, a mujahid who was working with the field service accompanied us to the ground of jihad. Shortly before our arrival in Afghanistan, at the last intermediate station, which was about a three-day trip away from the destination, they told us that this route was organized by the IMU.”
The IMU “made the final preparations for us, gave us a computer, and played us some films about the Movement.” They were shown videos made by Tahir Yuldashev, who “started the jihad in Pakistan.” And when asked to choose which group to fight with, Abu Ibrahim said they chose the IMU.
A well-worn path to jihad
Abu Ibrahim’s description of his journey to the Afghan-Pakistani region matches numerous other accounts of terrorists traveling to hot zones to wage jihad. Al Qaeda and its affiliates maintain safe houses and transit points throughout the Middle East and Central and South Asia. The alphabet soup of Pakistani jihadist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, and their charitable fronts, have elaborate networks devoted to moving foreign fighters into Afghanistan.
Often, host nations aid in the facilitation of the movement of foreign terrorists, particularly into Afghanistan. For instance, Iran, via the Ansar Corps, a sub-command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, facilitates the movement of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters into Afghanistan. Elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services also support Pakistani jihadist groups that run networks into Afghanistan; these same groups are often used to attack Indians in Kashmir.