Hundreds of Pakistani jihadists reported in Syria

Late last week, it was reported that a small cadre of expert trainers from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan under the command of Mohammad Amin set up a base in Syria to support jihadist activities against the Syrian government. In the last 24 hours, both the Associated Press and Reuters reported that hundreds of Pakistani jihadists, including some from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are fighting in Syria.

Reuters reported that “hundreds” of Pakistani fighters are currently in Syria:

On Sunday, Taliban commanders in Pakistan said they had also decided to join the cause, saying hundreds of fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their “Mujahedeen friends.”

“When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends,” one senior commander told Reuters, adding that the group would soon issue videos of what he described as their victories in Syria.

AP notes that there are two different types of fighters from Pakistan in Syria- – those who belong to al Qaeda and various Central Asian groups, and members of the Pakistani Taliban and other Pakistani jihadist groups, specifically the virulently anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi:

The fighters fall mainly into two categories. One includes foreign combatants from places like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and likely the Middle East who came to Pakistan’s tribal region to fight U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan and are now heading to Syria because they view it as the most pressing battle, said the Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

This group includes members of al-Qaida who trained the Pakistani Taliban in areas such as bomb-making and are now moving on to the battlefield in Syria, said Pakistani Taliban fighters, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by the government.


“Our aim and purpose is to fight against Shiites and eliminate them,” said Suleman, who is in his mid-30s and has a closely trimmed black beard. “It is more rewarding if you first fight against the evil here and then you travel for this noble purpose too. The more you travel, the higher the reward from God.”

Suleman is one of about 70 militants who have been sent to Syria in the last two months by a network jointly run by the Pakistani Taliban and Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Hamza said. The militants came from various parts of Pakistan, including the provinces of Baluchistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the southern city of Karachi, Hamza said.

Another group of 40, including Hamza, is expected to leave in the coming weeks, he said. These militants are not going to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, the most powerful Islamic militant group in Syria, Hamza said. But he did not know which group they would join.

The head of the network sending these militants is a former Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader named Usman Ghani, Hamza said. Another key member is a Pakistani Taliban fighter named Alimullah Umry, who is sending fighters to Ghani from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Hamza said.

The militants are traveling to Syria by various routes, and some are taking their families. The most closely watched are secretly taking speed boats from Baluchistan’s coast to the Omani capital of Muscat and then traveling onward to Syria, Hamza said.

Others are flying from Pakistan to various countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, and then making their way to Syria. The financing is coming from sources in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Hamza said.

On that last note, it is great to see that 12 years after 9/11, the Golden Chain continues to fund jihadi operations.

None of this should come as any surprise to readers of The Long War Journal. We have been warning for years that groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are increasingly taking a more international role, and are not confined to merely fighting in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. This should have been painfully obvious when the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan sent Faisal Shahzad to the US to detonate a bomb in Times Square, and then boasted about it.

Counterterrorism analysts often downplay, minimize, or outright ignore the role that groups like the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban play in supporting and participating in the global jihad. These groups, most analysts will say, are merely focused on their local insurgencies and have little interest in following al Qaeda’s lead outside of their own borders. But when hundreds of fighters from groups like the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi show up on the battlefield of Syria, these groups’ support for the global jihad can no longer be easily brushed aside.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Paul D says:

    Moe confirmation that Pakistan is Jihad central funded no doubt by Saudi, UAE,Kuwait and Qatar

  • blert says:

    I earlier opined that anti-Shi’ite attacks within Pakistan by these fanatics were emotionally connected to the supra-national civil war in Syria — the Shia vs Sunni conflict.
    I assumed that such attacks were in lieu of really getting to the big fight in Syria — funding being a problem.
    Obviously, the ‘Golden Chain’ has stepped up.
    My bet is that this time around the Golden Chain really is Qatar. The ex-Emir was throwing money around like crazy. So, his son has been elevated to replace him.
    The Shia-Sunni conflict that started in Iraq is almost certainly destined to come to full flower in Syria — THE traditional battle space. (In ancient times Syria and Iraq were normally fused together.)
    This development may have a significant impact on larger events — and quickly, too.
    Sunni reverses must compel fanatics from afar to the fight.
    It’s now public knowledge that Iran is openly engaged in Syria — and is leading the Shia/ Alawites to victories. They are not limiting themselves to training or advice. Without these IRGC formations, Assad would be on the ropes. They are the difference makers.

  • Eric says:

    Like everyone else, I am not excited to see Taliban in Syria. To me, it means that the war in Syria will spread into Lebanon. I never believed it wouldn’t. I just hoped it would spread slowly in small engagements, allowing the Lebanese to avoid economic and institutional collapse as the fighting progressed.
    I am looking forward to seeing Hezbollah reap the whirlwind for joining the battle in Qusayr. The destruction of Hezbollah as a political entity will only come about if they bring destruction on the Lebanese people, and here we are.
    ISI-Al Sham faction kills a FSA commander over a territorial dispute, setting the FSA on edge against Al Qaeda. FSA is starting to look out-gunned in their own country.
    Why again was a no-fly zone can-x’d? I’m starting to believe it will be the only thing holding the salafists in check after the Assad brothers leave town. Lebanon-Syria-Jordan-Iraq. US-led. NATO supported. All regional allies invited. Sounds right. Why wasn’t this going to work?

  • aamir says:


  • Moose says:

    At what point are we finally going to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. One would think that the undeniable proof of the ISI killing our soldiers in Afghanistan would have done it. Pakistan’s population is expected to reach 300 million by 2050. That’s nearly double what it is today. Do you think things will get better?

  • Ramtanu Maitra says:

    This is very surprising development. I wonder what these terrorist group expects to achieve in Syria. There exists already a bunch of Arab terrorists who have been pretty much outgunned by the Syrian Army. At this stage, why implant another group which will have to grope his way into the scene. Moreover, Pakistani Taliban’s job in FATA is in progress.

  • mike merlo says:

    An unbelievable amount of rumor & hearsay has now surfaced in the wake of a Reuters story basing unsubstantiated claims of “hundreds of Pakistani’s” now participating in the Syrian Rebellion. What makes this ‘story’ even more ridiculous is much of ‘it’ is ‘fueled’ by the usual rhetoric that has come to be expected from some Tribal Commander(Emir?) operating from some remote locale ‘fingered’ by the likes of Jules Verne or Rudyard Kipling.
    While I’m certain of the strong possibility of a shifting of manpower & resources exists. Much in the same way Afghanistan experienced a spike of activity following The Surge in Iraq. Particularly among those who make up the Foreign or Mercenary element ‘coagulating’ in Afghanistan or any of the now emergent ‘combat zones.’ What I don’t subscribe to is this ‘notion’ of Rank & File personnel comprised of Pakistani ‘Nationals,’ most especially Pathans. Punjabi’s possibly. Pathan’s, well I seriously doubt it.
    The British long ago, during their Colonial heyday, recognized the futility of trying to incorporate into their ranks Pathan ‘regulars.’ This problem became acutely apparent when sending Pathan ‘regulars’ overseas to assist them during WWI in Europe.
    The Pakistani Military(ISI)/Government itself has experienced the difficulty of imposing discipline, order, & the vicissitudes associated with Chain(s) Of Command upon the Pathans. Having met with some degree of success in Kashmir at the outset of The partition of ’47. Pakistan saw fit on multiple occasions to sic their ‘Tribals’ on West Pakistani’s meeting with palatable results. West Pakistan then saw fit to sic their ‘Tribals’ on East Pakistani’s. Which turned out to be a disaster akin to loosing a prisons occupants upon a general population. Pakistan once again rediscovered what they already learned with efforts at managing the Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan & the subsequent Civil War(Free For All?). And once again with ill conceived management & lose of control of The Taliban.
    Not so long ago when Mali & parts of the Sahara were being subjected to assaults/attacks from Muslim extremist’s a ‘couple’ of ‘bylines made short mention of the presence of Pakistani’s. Unfortunately nothing furthered was heard to corroborate this ‘gem’ of information.
    The GWOT has also been ‘treated’ by the little commented on expansion of ‘Ranks’ by ex Baathists, Republican Guard & Fedayeen once serving under Saddam.
    I’ve always believed that the Middle East, especially Egypt, has been Zawahiri’s primary objective. I can easily envision Zawahiri moving his available manpower & resources to ‘theaters.’ I long ago postulated in TLWJ ‘comments’ of Zawahiri placing an emphasis on The Red Sea & the adjoining ‘lands.’ What I don’t ‘subscribe’ to is this bloated sensationalist account now being ‘floated’ by Reuters & ‘picked up’ by other Main Stream Media ‘Camp Followers.’

  • Ken Zevo says:

    These Pakistani jihadists are in for a VERY rude awakening … much like their American 2nd generation Somali-refugee brothers who travelled back to Somalia to join the Islamic resistance group Al-Shebaab, and ended up either dying of dysentery (amid the generally unsanitary conditions they were totally unaccustomed to and unprepared for), or were used as cannon-fodder (such as suicide bombers) by the local Somalia jihadists when they discovered that dead American jihadists attract much more free press coverage and attract more attention on their internet recruitment sites.
    These Pakis in Syria are going to find themselves in a WORLD of hurt, when they discover that the Al-Assad gov’t doesn’t play by the same rules as the Americans that they have been fighting against in Afghanistan (i.e. the Geneva Conventions, Laws of Land Warfare, restrictive rules of engagement, and etc.).
    Welcome to Total Warfare, guys, where the only rule is that there are NO rules. No more hiding behind women/children, no melting away into the civilian population, no hiding in mosques and using them as weapons depots without consequences, no first aid or helicopter med-evac for your wounded who are left behind on the battlefield, and no surrendering and getting taken as a POW. Don’t expect any of the free rides you got from America. Assymetrical warfare isn’t nearly as sweet when the OTHER side is able and willing to use your own underhanded tactics against you and the civilian population that supports you, too.

  • remington says:

    Thank you for going there and may your dream of becoming shahid come true at the hands of the Syrian army. Good riddance regards from India.

  • Charu says:

    Assad and the Alawites are no threat to the Western homelands or to other minorities (mostly Christian) in the ME, but the Sunni jihadis are. If the later win, then the effects will be felt from Thailand, Burma and India in the east, to Europe and North America in the west. It is dangerously foolish and very shortsighted to support the Syrian rebels. Even Iran will eventually return to its Persian civilizational roots and to sanity, but the Arab sheikhdoms from KSA to the Gulf States (and wannabe-Arabs in AfPak) will soon fall to Sunni Islamic radicals like the Taliban or AQ, with no deep civilizational roots to enable them a way out.


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