The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group that operates in Afghanistan, has claimed it controls large areas of the northern border with Tajikistan. While the IJU’s claim cannot be independently confirmed, the jihadist group released several photos of a small team of fighters purportedly crossing the Amu Darya River in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.
The photographs, five of which are reproduced below, were published on Sodiqlar, the IJU’s official website. Fighters are ferried to a sandbar at a shallow point in the river, and then cross as a group into Tajikistan. The crossing takes place in broad daylight.
It is unclear exactly where the crossing took place, but it likely occurred in the district of Qala-i-Zal, the only district in Kunduz that borders the Amu Darya River. The northern Kunduz districts of Imam Sahib and Dasht-i-Archi, which also border Tajikistan and the Panj River, are considered to be contested or controlled by the Taliban.
The IJU says it is “controlling many territories bordering Tajikistan,” according to a statement accompanying the photographs.
“Our group has many followers and supporters among the locals and it is freely operating on the shores of Amu Darya River that separate Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The mujahideen are monitoring the section of the border guarded by infidels [Afghan and Tajik security forces], studying its weak points and also collecting information,” the IJU stated.
The deteriorating situation on the Afghan-Tajik border has forced the government of Tajikistan to consider allowing Russian troops to deploy along the frontier. In addition to instability in Kunduz, which is contested by the Taliban and it allies, the Taliban are reported to have control of border areas in the northeastern province of Badakhshan.
The IJU is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which joined the Islamic State this past summer. The IJU swore allegiance to the Taliban’s new emir, and has been active in the Taliban’s “Azm” spring offensive.
IJU photographs of the river crossing