Pakistani jihadist groups fundraise, recruit openly in Rawalpindi
Al Badar Mujahideen emir Bakht Zamin Khan. Image from the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups.
During a two-day conference that began yesterday in Rawalpindi, Pakistani jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban openly engaged in fundraising and recruitment of fighters for operations in Afghanistan and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Al Badar Mujahideen, a jihadist group linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyr's Hizb-i-Islami faction, organized the conference in the military garrison city, according to The Express Tribune. "Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) and Al Badar Mujahideen had set up stalls to sell propaganda CDs and 'jihadi' literature," the newspaper reported. The Pakistani government did not intervene to end the conference.
"Mid-level leaders" from Hizbul Mujhiadeen, HIA, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and other militant groups spoke at the conference," The Express Tribune noted.
Bakht Zamin Khan, the leader of the Al Badar Mujahideen, said his fighters are waging jihad in Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir, and pleaded for more money to carry out additional attacks.
"Our commanders in Kashmir and Afghanistan say they will carry out big attacks if they are provided with resources. They have the spirit but they are facing a shortage of supplies," he said.
Hizbul Mujahideen emir Syed Salahuddin also spoke at the fundraising and recruiting drive, and said Pakistan is the victim of a US and Israeli conspiracy. He stated that his fighters were waging jihad against the US.
"Pakistan is the target of the US-Israeli nexus. Our fighters are defending Pakistan at a time when its geographical boundaries, its security and Islamic identity are at risk," Salahuddin said. "We are fighting in Kashmir. It doesn't matter to us if we are labelled terrorists. We are proud to be called terrorists for fighting the US and its allies in Afghanistan."
Background on the Hizbul Mujahideen
Hizbul Mujahideen is a jihadist group with close ties to other Pakistani terror groups that focuses on fighting in Jammu and Kashmir. It receives support from Pakistan's military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). In May 2011, Salahuddin admitted that the Pakistani military allows him to run "hundreds of training camps in the state where we recruit and train the mujahideen."
Salahuddin is also the chairman of the United Jihad Council, which is supported by the Pakistani military and the ISI, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, two groups that are on the US and the United Nation's lists of terror organizations, are part of the United Jihad Council. Salahuddin has close ties to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and it charitable front, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
Background on the Al Badar Mujahideen
The Al Badar Mujahideen is a splinter faction of Hizbul Mujahideen that is supported by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The group "is reported to have training camps in the Manshera area of [Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province] in Pakistan, Kotli and Muzaffarabad," according to the South East Asia Terrorism Portal. Kashmiri terrorist groups such as Al Badar Mujahideen have flocked to Pakistan's northwest after the Pakistani military put a brake on operations in Kashmir, and have actively participated in operations against Coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The Al Badar Mujahideen is affiliated with "Al Qaeda, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamaat-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba [and Jamaat-ud-Dawa], Muttahida (United) Jihad Council (MJC), [and the] Taliban," according to the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups. The Al Badar Mujahideen is a member of the United Jihad Council, an alliance of 16 terrorist groups that are fighting in Jammu and Kashmir.
The US is known to have hit a training camp run by the Al Badar Mujahideen in a drone strike in September 2008. The strike took place in the village of Tol Khel on the outskirts of Miramshah in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan; 12 of the group's fighters were killed and 14 more were wounded.