Jihadists seek to open new front in Burma


A group of “mujahideen” training in Burma. Image from Kavkaz Center.

A group of jihadists from Burma, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan are reported to have formed a “brigade” to fight the Burmese government. A Burmese branch of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami that is based in Karachi, Pakistan and has been in operation since the late 1980s is likely involved in recruiting Pakistanis to fight in Burma.

“A brigade of Mujahedeen from Burma, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan under the leadership of Abu Safiya and Abu Arif reached Burma,” according to a statement released at Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate.

The statement was accompanied by nine photographs of members of the brigade. The jihadists are dressed in military fatigues and most are wearing green headbands. The men are armed with AK-47 assault rifles and PKM machine guns. The men are seen marching in formation, training with their weapons, and praying. Scores of fighters appear together in some of the pictures.

The photographs were originally published at Arrahmah.com, an Indonesian website that glorifies jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Indonesia, and in other theaters.

The group claims it killed 17 Burmese soldiers in its first ambush of a military convoy, and “a few days ago they slaughtered three men including a Buddhist monk.” The claims could not be confirmed.

The statement at Kavkaz also noted that Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah who is currently serving a jail sentence for forming an al Qaeda branch in Indonesia, called for Muslims to wage jihad against the Burmese government.

“By the will of Allah, we can destroy you and your people like Russia, the socialist-communist country, or like America that will be destroyed soon,” Bashir threatened in a letter to the president of Burma.

The Burmese branch of Pakistan’s Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami

Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, a Pakistani terror group closely tied to al Qaeda, operates a branch that is active in Burma. Known as Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Arakan, the group was founded by Maulana Abdul Quddus, a Burmese Muslim who fled to Pakistan sometime in the early 1980s, according to Amir Rana, the author of A to Z of Jehadi Organizations in Pakistan.

Quddus said he fought the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s after settling in Karachi and joining Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami.

“The Afghan war started while I was studying and I went many times to Afghanistan at the behest of Harakat ul-Jihad-e-Islami and had the honor of participating in jihad,” he said in an interview in 1998. “I stayed in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1988.”

He formed Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Arakan in 1988. The goal was to liberate the Muslim-dominated Burmese state of Rakhine, which was formerly known as Arakan.

Quddus and his Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Arakan are based in Korangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan. The group has an extensive network of madrassas and charities.

Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, the parent organization, is closely tied to al Qaeda, and its Brigade 313 serves as al Qaeda’s military arm in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ilyas Kashmiri, the former emir of Brigade 313 who was killed in a US drone strike in June 2011, also served as a member of al Qaeda’s military committee.

Terror groups call for jihad in Burma

As tensions between Rohingya Muslims in Burma and the government have escalated over the past several years, calls for jihad in the South Asia country from numerous jihadist groups have increased.

One of the most blatant calls for Muslims to wage jihad in Burma came from a senior cleric and spokesman from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Abu Dher Azzam, who is also known as Abu Dher al Burmi. In the statement, which was released on Nov. 28, 2012 and was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Azzam assailed the Burmese government and accused China and Germany of supporting “these massacres and this genocide” in Burma.

“Rise O servants of Allah to help your brothers and sisters!,” Azzam proclaimed. “Rise to save your sons and daughters! Do your best in jihad, O guardians of creed and [monotheism], against the enemies of Allah the idolatrous Buddhists, and target the most important installations of Burma, China and Germany, and their interests and the interests of the United Nations, which supports these massacres and this genocide in Arakan.”

Other groups that have offered support for Burmese Muslims include the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Shabaab, al Qaeda, and various jihadist media outlets such as the Shumukh al-Islam forum, the Global Islamic Media Front, al Qaeda’s Vanguards of Khorasan magazine, and the Turkish jihadist magazine Islamic World.

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:

    Pakistan is Mordor.

  • sushilpshader says:

    Religious Fundamentalist Jihadists If Not Stopped Will Destabilize The World !!

  • Eric says:

    While there has been jihadist sympathy for the Rohynghas plight, to date there has been no organized terror activity in Burma.
    After seeing Meikhtila erupt in intolerance over a fight in a gold shop followed by a street attack of a buddhst monk, I cannot believe the vague jihadi claim that some monk was attacked somewhere. If it were true, the community in which it occurred would already be in the media for burning some nearby muslim enclave to the ground.
    Myanmar will be a losing ground for the jihadis from the go. The Buddhist 969 movement does not have too many serious grievances against the muslims yet, and look how powerful the public response has been already. And that is just the public response. The military and police have never declared operational conflicts with muslims anywhere except Rakhine state, and any serious attack on the state in Myanmar will bring the police and military into the fight. Their history of fighting guerilla insurgencies in Myanmar is a strong indication of what fate awaits a militant organization’s encampments following an attack targeting political leadership or police and army elements. Nothing clean about it – villages and camps razed, everyone killed, and nothing in the media.
    The massacres of muslims that have occurred do not seem to bother everyday people in Myanmar. The court of public opinion in the streets there finds that the muslims have had it coming for a long time. The Army and the police just stand aside and let the killing and burning happen. They impose order only after enough has been done to satisfy the aggrieved.
    This will be nothing more than talk by jihadi chat-room wannabes, because the militant organizations that have studied Myanmar know they will not win on any level there. The state they make threats against is more savage than the jihadists are themselves. And that is the ground truth in a war with Islamic savages, isn’t it? Whomever is more committed wins.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I don’t believe this so called HUJI-Arakan group exists in Burma. If so, the world’s media would have film crews filming them or even islamic terrorists boasting about it on their videos. That has not even happened, so I’m very sceptical. Also most people in Rakhine state are Buddhists and not Muslims. Muslims are such a minute population in Burma (estimated only 4% in Burma and 40% in Burma’s Rakhine state), they don’t even form a majority in any state of Burma.

  • Gaz says:

    Abu Zar al-Burmi, as his name implies, is also from Burma, despite being the Mufti of an organisation called the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
    The Mujahideen will find it a very hard area to operate in, due to it’s difficult location and that the other major ethnic group in Arakan is extremely hostile to the Rohingya Muslims. Apart from being a particularly brutal force, the Burmese military has plenty of experience in fighting other insurgencies in the country, including against the Karen, Wa and Shan ethnic groups.
    Rather than the next Afghanistan, I am guessing this will be a low level conflict, seeing drive-by and roadside bombs on military and civilian targets like that seen in South Thailand.

  • gb says:

    Is it time to sell the Burmese govt helicopters with thermal systems? That jungle is damn thick and as we’ve seen in the past that type of terrain can help insurgent escape conventional detection techniques…

  • Don says:

    this will be quite intersting, as the Rohingya are at the very bottom of the class system in Bangladesh and Burma, i think this will have an affect on the levels of support these psycho jihadis give these poor people.

  • mike merlo says:

    I can’t imagine the Burmese Military/Government displaying the level of ‘incontinence’ so readily exhibited by their counterparts in Thailand & the Philippines.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    I think you are underestimating the Mujahideen by believing by default that they will have a hard time in the area there. The people going to Burma have had a lifetime of experience fighting in brutal terrain against a militarily superior foe, if anything the situation in Burma favors them because of the conditions mentioned.
    I think the western world needs to accept that brutal repressive methods do not work in stopping these guys. Proof, is that they are in much more places now than after 9/11, or even 4 years.

  • Myanmarease says:

    FYI I believe this photograph was taken in Bangladesh some years ago and not in Burma It appeared on Indonesian radical websites last week claiming it was in Arakan/Rakine.
    Naypyidaw denies this and says Nasaka (the border paramilitary force) would know about it if this was going on. (Although they are scrapping Nasaka).

  • g says:

    “The state they make threats against is more savage than the jihadists are themselves.”
    So very true. The Burman military is exceptionally barbaric. I suspect most of these jihadis will soon be meeting their virgins.

  • Luca says:

    From the picture I would say It’s RPKs not PKMs…and
    HUJI better stand in line: the burmese gov’t is well used to fighting ethinc militias throughout the country since 1948, I would assume the announcement has left the generals unfazed.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    I totally agree with Eric’s statement and also if there were clashes, it would have been reported in the media, just like the civilian clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma are reported. Now coming to the pictures that these jihadi’s have posted of guerilla camps, I suspect they are probably not in Burma, but perhaps in Bangladesh, where there is easy range of obtaining weapons, especially in a region where insurgent groups operate in north-east India and Bangladesh. However why would islamic terrorist groups post pictures instead of a video proving their claim. Simple answer, the islamic terrorists are boasting and misleading their supporters that they are in Burma, so that there is general interest. In reality, they’re probably not even in Burma itself.

  • arindam says:

    Request to Burmese buddhist and army :
    please advise India on how to tackle terrorism in India and join a coomon front to protect BODH GAYA shrine

  • Barry Larking says:

    Soon to be martyred foreign jihadists fighting on ground they don’t know or control? Against the unpleasant Burmese? Almost too good. Like the great Oscar said of fox hunting on horseback “The pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.”

  • Lalit Ambardar says:

    Picture Reminds of green head bands (with holy verses scribbled) donning Kashmiri Jihadists wielding glistening AK47s, parading Kashmir streets & targeting symbols of Indian presence in Kashmir at the advent of Pak’s anti India Kashmir Jihad in 1989-90.
    Aboriginal Kashmiris, the Hindus (Pandits) suffered brutal ethnic cleansing at the hands of these medieval marauders during that chilling winter.
    India’s expediency driven ‘Islamism apologist’ state continues to down play the menace of pan Islamism inspired Kashmir Jihad that has seen terror attacks across India for the past 23 years including the last major 26/11 Mumbai massacre.
    India’s perfidious internal-polity should not be a reason for the West claiming at war with the Global Jihad, ignore the sufferings of Indian masses, the worst victims of Islamic terror.Kashmiri Hindus live with ignominy of being refugees in own country for the past twenty three years ever since hounded out from the Valley.
    Article left out Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri’s bloody ‘adventures’ in Kashmir,please check his barbarian past in Kashmir : http://beta.dawn.com/news/634784/death-of-a-quintessential-jihadi

  • Osiki says:

    Jihadists? Ha ha.. This isn’t Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria. Malaria will finish them off before they even see their first Burmese soldier.


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