A Uighur terrorist from a videotape released by the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party in 2008.
The leader of a Chinese terrorist group who serves on al Qaeda’s top council may have been killed in an airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The report is not confirmed.
Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, is reported to have been killed by the US in the Feb. 15 airstrike. The US strike targeted a vehicle and a safe house operated by Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Baradar in the town of Tabi Ghundi Kala; four terrorists were reported killed in the attack.
Pakistani intelligence officials and Taliban sources claimed that Haq was killed in the strike, according to a report in Geo News. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal could not confirm Haq’s death but are investigating the reports.
“He’s certainly a dangerous terrorist leader, one we’d like to check off our list,” an intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “He’s on al Qaeda’s top shura [council] and he is seeking to carry out attacks across the globe.”
Haq was last heard from in August 2009, when he threatened to attack Chinese embassies worldwide as well as targets within the country.
Haq, who is also known as Maimaitiming Maimaiti, became the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party in late 2003 after Hassan Mahsum, the group’s previous leader, was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan.
Al Qaeda appointed Haq to its Shura Majlis, or executive leader council, in 2005, according to the US Treasury Department, which designated him as a global terrorist in April 2009. The United Nations also designated Haq as a terrorist leader.
Haq is considered influential enough in al Qaeda’s leadership circles that he is dispatched to mediate between rival Taliban groups as well as to represent the Shura Majlis in important military matters. In June 2009, Haq was spotted in Pakistan’s tribal areas attending an important meeting with Baitullah Mehsud, then Pakistan’s overall Taliban commander. Haq and a senior delegation of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders traveled to Pakistan’s tribal areas to discuss the Pakistani military’s operation in South Waziristan. Among those in attendance were Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the deadly Haqqani Network; and Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda ideologue and propagandist.
The Treasury Department said Haq has sent operatives abroad to raise funds for attacks against Chinese interests both at home and abroad. He also is involved with recruiting, propaganda efforts, and the planning and execution of terror attacks. In early 2008, Haq openly threatened to conduct attacks at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Haq ran a training camp for his recruits at al Qaeda’s camp in Tora Bora in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar prior to the US invasion in October 2001 [see LWJ report, “The Uighurs in their own words”]. He later reestablished camps for the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. The Chinese government has pressured Pakistan to dismantle the camps.
Despite Haq’s connections to al Qaeda and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party’s role in the global jihad, the US is releasing fighters belonging to the terror group from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Of the 22 Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party detainees captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, only seven remain in custody. Five were transferred out of custody by the Bush administration and 10 more by the Obama administration.
The seven remaining Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party fighters in US custody are expected to be freed, as the US government no longer considers them a threat. Two of the detainees have been offered the opportunity to resettle in Switzerland and five others in the island nation of Palau.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.