A Uighur terrorist, thought to be either Abdul Haq al Turkistani or Emeti Yakuf (Abdul Shakoor Turkistani), from a videotape released by the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party in 2008.
The emir of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) who was appointed by al Qaeda to direct operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas is rumored to have been killed in the flurry of drone strikes that took place in North Waziristan this week.
Emeti Yakuf and three of his “commanders” are thought to have been killed in Friday’s drone strike on a training camp in the Shawal Valley, Pakistani intelligence told Dawn. Two leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan were also reportedly killed in the same strike. Yakuf’s death has not been confirmed.
US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that they are investigating reports of Yakuf’s death, and that he is one of numerous senior terrorist leaders being hunted in North Waziristan.
Yesterday, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that the remotely piloted Predators and Reapers were targeting an “important jihadi leader” in the region, but his name was not disclosed. Badruddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, is also rumored to have been killed in a drone strike this week, but the report is unconfirmed.
An al Qaeda operations chief
Yakuf, who is better known as Abdul Shakoor Turkistani or Abdul Jabbar, was given command of al Qaeda’s forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the spring of 2010 after Saif al Adel, a top al Qaeda military strategist and now its deputy leader, left the region [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda appoints new leader of forces in Pakistan’s tribal areas].
Yakuf took control of the Turkistan Islamic Party after his predecessor, Abdul Haq al Turkistani, was killed in the Feb. 14, 2010 strike on a compound in the village of Zor Babar Aidak near Mir Ali in North Waziristan. The Turkistan Islamic Party is known to operate in the Mir Ali region along with the Islamic Jihad Group, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
While the Turkistan Islamic Party, a terror group that operates in China and Central Asia, is thought to have scores of fighters in Pakistan’s tribal areas, the group’s leaders also hold senior positions in al Qaeda. Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the slain former leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party, was a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. And Abdul Shakoor is also thought to have been appointed to the Shura Majlis, in addition to being designated commander of al Qaeda forces in the tribal areas.
Prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, Abdul Haq ran a training camp for his recruits at al Qaeda’s camp in Tora Bora in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province [see LWJ report, The Uighurs in their own words]. He later reestablished camps for the Turkistan Islamic Party in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. Twenty-two Turkistan Islamic Party operatives were ultimately captured and detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; since then, 17 of them have been released or transferred to allied governments, and five have been approved for release but have refused resettlement in volunteer countries.
A seasoned jihadist
Yakuf has been involved with the Turkistan Islamic Party, which is also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), since 1996, according to a fact sheet released by China’s Ministry of Public Security in October 2008. The description of his activities and capabilities matches that of Karachi Islam, the jihadist magazine that first reported he took control of operations and training in the tribal areas, as well as the description provided to The Long War Journal by US intelligence officials.
In November 2006, Yakuf “illegally exited China for a South Asian country,” likely Afghanistan or Pakistan, joined the Turkistan Islamic Party, “and received terrorism training.”
He quickly rose through the ranks and less than two years later “he became a key member of the terrorist group.” By 2001, he became the group’s “military commander, in charge of recruiting new members, organizing terrorism training, as well as planning and carrying out terrorist attacks.”
In addition to training operatives, he established “training camps in a South Asian country,” a likely reference to Pakistan, where he instructed “dozens of extremists in military and terrorist skills.”
“Those trainees were sent to countries in the Middle East and West Asia. Dozens of terrorists were trained for seven months by Emeti Yakuf to learn how to make explosives and poison,” China’s Ministry of Public Security said.
Yakuf “ordered ETIM members to enter Chinese territory to prepare terrorist attacks against the Beijing Olympics” and appeared in propaganda threatening attacks on the Olympics.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.