A Uighur terrorist, from a videotape released by the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party in 2008.
The top leader of a Chinese terror group with close links to al Qaeda has been killed in Pakistan, according to Pakistan’s Interior Minister. The report has not been confirmed.
Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, has been killed in Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said during a conference in Beijing, China. Malik also claimed that the terror group’s “back is broken” and that the group is no longer viable inside Pakistan.
“I am happy to inform you that their back is broken, it’s weakened,” Malik said, according to a report in Dawn. “We treat ETIM not only as an enemy of China but also as an enemy of Pakistan …. Now the other so-called gang leader Haq has been killed recently, I can confirm that.”
Malik has not provided any evidence of Haq’s death, nor did he detail the place and date that Haq was killed.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not confirm Haq’s death but said they were aware of the rumors.
Haq was rumored to have been killed in a US Predator airstrike in North Waziristan on Feb. 15, but the report was never confirmed. The ETIP has not issued a martyrdom statement announcing Haq’s death, nor has it named a replacement leader.
Malik and senior Pakistani officials have an atrocious track record for accuracy in reporting the deaths of top Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied jihadist groups’ leaders. This year alone, Malik has insisted that the following top Taliban leaders were killed in Pakistani or US strikes: Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan; Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the Taliban leader of South Waziristan; Faqir Mohammed, the Bajaur Taliban leader; Qari Hussain Mehsud, the master trainer of child suicide bombers and Hakeemullah’s deputy; and Qari Zia Rahman, a top Taliban and al Qaeda commander who operates on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Malik and other top Pakistani officials have been equally bad at reporting on the deaths of top terrorist leaders over the past several years.
Background on Abdul Haq al Turkistani and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party
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 was last heard from in August 2009, when he threatened to attack Chinese embassies worldwide as well as targets within the country.
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.