A Taliban subgroup with links to al Qaeda was behind the kidnapping of a British aid worker who was killed during a rescue attempt late last week.
The Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran, a Salafist group that merged with the Taliban at the beginning of the year, kidnapped Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker, and her Afghan colleagues as they were driving through the Taliban stronghold of Kunar province in northeastern Afghanistan on Sept. 26. Norgrove worked for Development Alternatives Incorporated, which works under the aegis of USAID.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said that “Linda’s captors were assessed to be representatives of a local Salafist group allied to the local Kunar Taliban, who had links higher up the Taliban chain of command, to Al Qaeda, and to other insurgent groups operating in the Afghan and Pakistan border areas.” Hague made the statement to the House of Commons today.
US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that the group was indeed the Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran (JDQ), which is closely tied to the Taliban establishment in Kunar as well as to al Qaeda.
Haque said that JDQ had intended to transfer Norgrove to senior Taliban leaders. Qari Zia Rahman, a regional Taliban leader who also serves as a senior al Qaeda commander, leads the terrorist forces in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan provinces, as well as in the Pakistan tribal agency of Bajaur.
“We had information from the outset that the objective of Linda’s captors was to pass her further up the Taliban command chain and perhaps move her to yet more inaccessible terrain,” Haque said.
Norgrove was killed during a US Special operations forces raid that has created a controversy between the two key NATO allies. The International Security Assistance Force first claimed Norgrove was killed by the Taliban, but have since said it would launch an investigation after reports surfaced that she may have been accidentally killed by US forces during the raid. Norgrove is thought to have been killed by fragments from a hand grenade thrown by the US operators. Six Taliban fighters were also killed during the raid.
Unnamed British officials are claiming the US launched the raid without using British special operations forces, and described US forces as careless and “gung ho,” according to The Telegraph.
But Hague rebuffed such charges, and noted that Norgrove was taken hostage in an area under US control. British troops do not operate in eastern Afghanistan and thus are unfamiliar with the terrain and the nature of the enemy, while US special operations troops routinely carry out raids in the region.
Background on the Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran
The Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran, which is also known variously as the Jamaat al Dawa ila al Sunnah, Jamaat ud Dawa il al Quran al Sunnah, and the Salafi Group, is actually an official part of the Taliban. JDQ officially joined the Taliban in January 2010 and swore allegiance to Mullah Omar, the emir of the Taliban’s shadow Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. On Jan. 9, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid released an official statement formally announcing JDQ’s merger with the Taliban and named the group’s leadership.
“The movement, Jamaat al Dawa ila al Sunnah of Afghanistan which has regularly carried out Jihad in the name of Salafi Taliban in Kunar province, has now allied itself with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Mujahid said in a statement published on the Taliban’s official website, Voice of Jihad.
The US began identifying the JDQ as a threat this summer, and killed three members of the group on August 19.
Three members of the JDQ have been detained by the US at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, a “poet” and journalist who worked for pro-Taliban papers, was sent to Pakistan in 2005. In 2008, the Pakistani government freed Dost and handed him over to the Taliban as part of a deal to free Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. Sahib Rohullah Wakil was a senior member of JDQ who had close connections to the Pakistani government and helped al Qaeda escape to Pakistan after the US invasion in late 2001. Sabar Lal Melma was a general in the Taliban’s army and helped al Qaeda fighters flee the battle of Tora Bora and cross the border into Pakistan. Wakil and Melma were repatriated to Afghanistan and are in detention at the Pul-e-Charkhi prison outside of Kabul.
Kunar province is a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and allied terror groups. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Pech, Shaikal Shate, Sarkani, Dangam, Asmar, Asadabad, Shigal, and Marawana; or eight of Kunar’s 15 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.