Jund al Khilafah, or Soldiers of the Caliphate, an al Qaeda and Haqqani Network-linked terror group that is based along the Afghan-Pakistani border, claimed credit for one of the shootings attributed to Mohamed Merah, a French citizen and resident of Toulouse who was killed in a shootout by French police earlier today after a two-day-long standoff. The terror group released a statement today that was published on several jihadist web forums. A portion of the statement, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, is below:
On Tuesday, 19 March, one of the knights of Islam, our brother Yusuf al-Firansi [the French], we ask Allah to accept him, went out in an operation that shook the foundations of Zio-Crusaderdom in the whole world and filled the hearts of the enemies of Allah with fear. While we claim our responsibility for these blessed operations, we say that the crimes that Israel is committing against our people in the pure land of Palestine, and in Gaza in particular, will not pass without punishment. The mujahideen everywhere are determined to retaliate for every drop of blood that was spilled unjustly and aggressively in Palestine, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries.
The Jund al Khilafah statement also said the French must reconsider their “hostile tendency towards Islam and its Shariah” – a reference to their deployment of forces in Afghanistan as well as the ban on the veil for women in public places in France. The Jund al Khilafah statement did not, however, take credit for the other shootings carried out by Merah that killed three French soldiers.
Interestingly enough, SITE noted that the Shumukh al-Islam forum, which is linked to al Qaeda and is a primary means of distribution for al Qaeda and other jihadist materials, pulled the statement from its website. “The communiqué offered no evidence to substantiate the claim of responsibility but was posted by the same user who posted prior messages from the group,” the SITE Intelligence Group stated.
Merah is known to have spent time in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is said to have attended training camps in Waziristan, so it is possible that he interacted with Jund al Khilafah in the past. However there is no evidence available to confirm that this has happened, nor has there been any indication at this time that Merah went by the name Yusuf al Firansi.
Jund al Khilafah has claimed credit for three attacks in Kazakhstan last fall, and has also released two videos of attacks against ISAF forces in Khost province, Afghanistan last year. For more information on the Jund al Khilafah, see LWJ report, Kazakh jihadi leader seeks restoration of Islamic caliphate.
Last November, Rawil Kusaynuv, the emir of the Zahir Baibars Battalion, one of the units that comprises the Jund al Khilafah, said his battalion has “a group of mujahideen of different nationalities” but is primarily made up of Kazakh nationals.
“As for us in the Battalion, more than 90% of us are from Kazakhstan, and we have many military activities on the fighting lines in Afghanistan in collaboration with the rest of the battalions,” he said. “We are also interested in the military, faith, intellectual, and political support for our brothers in order for them to rise to an acceptable level of ability to wage the fight.”