Islamic Jihad Union details its involvement in Taliban’s Azm offensive

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The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an al Qaeda and Taliban-linked terrorist group that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, trumpeted its role in the current Taliban-led Azm offensive in Afghanistan as well as its involvement in battling Pakistani troops in North Waziristan.

The IJU promoted its operations in a statement that was released on its website on July 22. The statement begins by saying that the group “actively participates in complex operations” in both Afghanistan and in northwestern Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the IJU says it is “engaged in operations in southern Afghanistan, the eastern provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Nangarhar, and also is operating in the northern provinces of Badakhshan and Kunduz.” In Pakistan, the group claims it is operating with the “North Waziristan Mujahideen,” likely a reference to several Taliban factions, including the Movement of the Talibain in Pakistan, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and other jihadist groups based there.

In both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the IJU “brothers carry out their work with the Taliban.”

In Badakhshan, the IJU reported that has sent its “first expedition” there and its fighters are involved in intelligence gathering and planning. In Kunduz, the group said that the “immigrant brothers are involved in education in the work of the conquest of Kunduz,” likely a reference to foreign militants attending training camps in the northern Afghan province. In Paktika, the jihadist group reported ambushing a group of Afghan soldiers in a mountainous region of the province. Three days before this ambush took place, however, the IJU claimed that it was able to destroy an Afghan Army Humvee with a rocket-propelled grenade. Additionally, the IJU claimed it attacked an Afghan military camp with the aid of “three Arab brothers,” likely a reference to al Qaeda.

The IJU also said that its snipers undertook more than 10 operations in recent days. An attack by “Mansour Turki” was highlighted. The location of the sniper operations was not disclosed.

The IJU also named eight of its fighters who were killed during the fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The fighters come from the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan:

– Ja`far Kukes, a Kazakh, was killed while fighting Pakistani troops in Mirali, North Waziristan, a known stronghold of the IJU.
– Muhammad (a Kazakh), Mus`ab (a Tajik), and Sunnatullah (an Uzbek) were killed while fighting the “apostate Pakistani troops in the Waziristan region.”
– Ahmad (a Tajik), “was killed along with wife and two daughters” in a Pakistan Air Force airstrike in the “Waziristan region.”
– Elijah (a Kyrgyz) and Abu Khalid (an Uzbek) were killed in Mir Ali “as a result of US airstrikes.”
– Shuaib (an Uzbek), was killed while ambushing a group of Afghan security personnel in “northern Afghanistan,” likely in Kunduz.

The July 22 update from the IJU occurred one month after the group claimed that it, along with the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Turkistan Islamic Party, “carried out a number of attacks” in eastern Afghanistan. In one attack, the jihadists attacked an Afghan military base killing “many apostate soldiers” before reinforcements arrived. In a mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan, the IJU said that it and al Qaeda carried out an attack on an Afghan outpost “destroying all defenses.”

The IJU has publicized its close ties to the Taliban in the past. In December 2011, the group released a video that discussed the training of its fighters, showed cooperation with the Afghan Taliban and attacks in several provinces, and provided the names of operatives killed during fighting in Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Islamic Jihad Union details cooperation with Afghan Taliban.]

IJU is an established jihadist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan

The IJU (also known as the Islamic Jihad Group) is a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and a substantial number of its members are from Central Asia. Prior to the Pakistani Army’s offensive in North Waziristan that began in June 2014, the IJU was based in Mir Ali.

The IJU has been waging jihad in the Afghan-Pakistan region for more than a decade. It maintains close ties with al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The US government listed the group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization in May 2005. Its members who are in custody “have testified to the close ties between the [IJU] leaders and Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar,” the US State department said in its designation.

The IJU’s network in Afghanistan has been on the US military’s radar. The former International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) documented 19 special operations raids against the IJU between 2007 and 2013. These are the raids that have been publicized, but there likely are more operations that have not been disclosed. [See LWJ report, ISAF raids against al Qaeda and allies in Afghanistan 2007-2013.]

German and Turkish Muslims make up a significant portion of the Islamic Jihad Group. Some of its fighters have been referred to as ‘German Taliban,’ and the group released a video in 2009 of ‘German Taliban villages’ in Waziristan. Its fighters were seen training at camps and conducting military operations.

German members of the Islamic Jihad Union have also been killed in combat inside Pakistan. Eric Breininger, a German man who converted to Islam, was killed while assaulting a Pakistani military outpost in North Waziristan on April 28. Three Uzbek fighters were also killed in the attack. Breininger was wanted for plotting attacks against US military bases and personnel in Germany.

Turkish members of the Islamic Jihad Group were also reported killed along with an al Qaeda commander in a US Predator strike in North Waziristan on June 19.

Americans have also joined the Islamic Jihad Group. In 2009, two Americans, Abu Ibrahim al Amriki and Sayfullah al Amriki, were featured in propaganda released by the jihadist group.

The Islamic Jihad Group has been the target of several US airstrikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The US killed Najmuddin Jalolov, the former leader of the group, in a Predator airstrike in North Waziristan on Sept. 14, 2009. Turkish members of the IJU were reported killed along with an al Qaeda commander in a US Predator strike in North Waziristan on June 19, 2010.

The IJU has not confined its attacks to the Afghan Pakistan region and Central Asia. On Sept. 8, 2010, US drones killed Qureshi, an IJU commander who trained Germans to conduct attacks in their home country. In February 2012, the US added Mevlut Kar, a dual German and Turkish citizen who is also known as Mevlut Zikara, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Kar was a member of the IJU cell that attempted to attack US military personnel and civilians in Germany in 2007. The targets of the attack included Ramstein Air Base and Frankfurt International Airport. Three members of the cell were arrested before the plot could be executed.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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2 Comments

  • Craig says:

    At some point, we will be doing China’s work for them. China relies on 60% imported oil and also needs the Neo-silk-road. I’m no expert and I’m sure it’s complicated and filled with drawbacks, but maybe we should let Central Asia and the Middle East burn. Perhaps we are concerned about Pakistan’s nukes or the safety of Israel or maybe stable oil prices, but with the advent of Shale oil in America (thank God) we are essentially energy independent. Certainly, intelligence is helpful to protect the homeland, but maybe we should do a minimum and let the ‘Mongols’ and Russians and Neo-caliphate elements duke it out. Low oil prices hurt Russia but high prices will dampen China and promote our domestic energy production. China should not be able to skirt responsibility while benefitting from our hegemonic aegis of the civilized commercial global society. They should shoulder a proportional burden. Furthermore, increasing responsibilities for China may lead to further destabilization of their society vis-a-vis multiple internal contradictions such as being a crony capitalist state with an anti-capitalist origin. The need to fight for resources (as in Sudan), along with a recontectualized view of China’s activities in the Southern Hemisphere (Africa and South America) will expose China as an expansionist Neo-colonial empire. This neo-colonialism coupled with “crony-capitalism-with Chinese characteristics,” may possibly create the critical mass of internal societal contradiction preceding a downfall. Such a downfall would be the pinnacle of irony, since the CCP, in my estimation, is, at its core, an evil cult of pirates who have had as a chief foreign policy objective of the destabilizing of world peace through various means, but most notably in the intentional proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. By being forced to confront the fruits of their own destabilizing activities (such as providing nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan), China will be exposed to a proliferation of threats. One can imagine a situation where China helps Pakistan put down a Baluchistan rebellion or Waziristan insurgency in order to protect their commercial routes. In conjunction with the growing anti-China sentiment among certain Muslims (as exemplified by recent protests in Turkey) in regards to the Uighars, it may be possible to shift the focus of Muslim rage away from America (and “Rome”/ Europe) and towards China (and Russia). If anti-American sentiment abates in Iran, that would further accelerate a relative shift in the direction of ‘Muslim rage,” from West to East. A miracle peaceful resolution in Israel would also eliminate a great deal of anti-American sentiment in the middle-east. The overarching theme here is a coupling of the relative growth of China with increased responsibility of maintaining order. China (under CCP) does not possess any moral constraint. In the post Tiananmen Square post iPhone era, it is likely that increased interactions between China and the ROW will deeply expose the heartless and lawless nature of the CCP, filmed and exposed for the world to see. Whereas today, America faces various threats around the globe, it is theoretically possible to engineer a situation where these various sources of conflict are reoriented toward each other. I mean Russia, China and Neo-caliphate elements. Whereas Russia is currently aligned with Chinese interests in subduing the “central Asian problem,” it is conceivable that Russia will quickly see a nearly exact replay of the 80’s experience in Afghanistan. Further destabilization in the Caucasus could at last lead to an alignment of Russian and Europe interests and finally to a NATO-Russian shared vision and the ultimate formation of the “northern alliance” of nato, Russia and Japan. In this way, Russia would lose its empire ambition and its central Asian interest, but by turning to Europe before it’s too late, it will be able to keep its eastern empire, whereas a prolonged exposure to central Asia/Afghanistan could alternately lead to the total collapse of Russia to a rump state barely in control of anything east of the Ural Mountains. With demographic concerns, it would be just a matter of time before China renigs on the border treaties signed with Russia. With Russia firmly entrenched in the northern alliance, the world would be dramatically closer to some form of world peace. This type of future alignment between America and Russia would form the basis of a non nuclear world or at the very least, a world where any nuclear exchange would not take place in the heart of the northern hemisphere. If world peace is the goal, then a strategic recession of American involvement in areas of the ancient Silk Road may lead to a dramatic transition of “hegemonic stressors” away from America and toward China. This additional stress on China would likely lead to its disintegration. The North Korean issue would then be solveable. Just as retreat is sometimes part of an effective military campaign, it may also be advisable in the global campaign of peace. The fear would be a Chinese monopoly of the Middle East, but the likelihood of General submission to a new round of colonialism is unlikely. Perhaps sounding like a fairy tale at this point, the disaggregation of China could lead to its democratization. The redeployment of American interest away from Central Asia would likely imply further involvement in South America and Africa. The only thing remaining at that point would be the final democratization of the Arabian peninsula. A peaceful, unified world could then focus on denuclearization and environmental sustainability and a new transition away from guns and toward butter.

  • mike merlo says:

    good information. Its nice to see IJU come out from the ‘shadows.’ Am looking forward to Putin stepping up Russian presence in Central Asia & indulging in a bit of ‘Monkey Business’ in the AfPak Theater

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