The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), which is openly loyal to the Taliban and also affiliated with al Qaeda, participated in the Taliban’s siege of Kunduz city, according to statements and photos released by the group and its supporters online. In a message posted on the IJU’s official website on Oct. 1, the group disputed reports saying that Kunduz had been recaptured by the Afghan government and its allies.
A series of photos (some of which can be seen below) were published along with the statement. The images purportedly show the IJU’s “spoils,” its fighters manning checkpoints in the city, and other scenes from the aftermath of the raid. In addition, prisoners who were freed in the wake of the jihadists’ successful push into Kunduz city are pictured walking down a street.
The “liberated areas” shown in the photos include “the region’s airport,” as well as a district in the center of Kunduz, according to the IJU. The group claimed that reports of Kunduz being recaptured by the “apostates” are “false and baseless,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. The IJU said its “mujahideen” are “freely moving in the center” of Kunduz and have “established control there.”
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid released his own statement on Oct. 1, making the same claims as the IJU. Mujahid argued that the city of Kunduz remains under the control of the Taliban and its allies.
The fighting in Kunduz is fluid, however, with conflicting information over the past 72 hours concerning the effort to retake the city.
In an earlier statement, published on Sept. 29, the IJU said its fighters wouldn’t stop at Kunduz. The IJU claimed the “mujahideen” are preparing to launch operations against other areas in northern Afghanistan, including Mazar-e-Sharif in the Balkh province.
“We remind you that the city of Kunduz was the only city in Kunduz Province that had not been conquered by the mujahideen,” the IJU said on Sept. 29, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. The “mujahideen” have “plans” to lay siege to Mazar-e-Sharif and other areas of Balkh after they “completely conquer” the province of Konduz, the IJU continued. The group said it had intercepted reinforcements sent from the capital of Kabul and that the “puppet governor” of Kunduz had been seen fleeing to Tajikistan by helicopter.
On Aug. 20, the IJU released a statement announcing its pledge of allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the Taliban’s new emir.
“Representatives of all the jihadist groups in the region of Kunduz…renewed the oath of allegiance to the Islamic Emirate Amirul Mu’mineen [Emir of the Faithful] Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansuor,” the IJU said. “The commanders of the Islamic Jihad’s warriors promote unity [in] Kunduz province. God has united the hearts of believers to unite their ranks!”
The IJU is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which swore fealty to the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al Baghdadi after the Taliban admitted that it had covered up Mullah Omar’s death. The IJU did not follow suit, however, preferring to remain a part of the Taliban-al Qaeda axis. [See LWJ report, Central Asian groups split over leadership of global jihad.]
The Taliban, the IJU and their jihadist allies likely prepared the raid on Kunduz city months in advance. As the IJU’s own statements make clear, the jihadists captured nearly all of the surrounding areas in the province before invading the city itself.
The IJU has long fought as part of the Taliban’s coalition. In July, the organization promoted its role in the Taliban-led offensive in various areas of Afghanistan. The group said that the “immigrant brothers” (a reference to the IJU’s cadre of fighters from several Central Asian countries) were involved in the ongoing “conquest of Kunduz.” [See LWJ report, Islamic Jihad Union details its involvement in Taliban’s Azm offensive.]
Social media websites affiliated with the IJU have posted dozens of images from the city of Kunduz. Some of the photos can be seen below.
The IJU’s “spoils” include a UN vehicle and a Humvee. A tank is also pictured:
The two photos below purportedly show fighters who were freed from a prison in the city of Kunduz:
IJU fighters manning checkpoints:
This photo appears to show IJU fighters at the airport in Kunduz: