Taliban openly marching through the streets of a town in Kunduz
In a newly released video from the Taliban’s media wing, the jihadist group advertises the existence of the Omar ibn Khattab training camp somewhere in the northern Kunduz Province. It is unclear when the footage was taken, but the camp appears to have been operational for quite some time as footage from different seasons is shown throughout the video.
After giving a eulogy to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the last emir who was killed in a US drone strike in Baluchistan, Pakistan last May, the Taliban shows dozens of fighters and new recruits training in a large compound in Kunduz. The fighters are shown undergoing physical training, as well as instruction with both real and fake weapons. Additionally, the recruits are shown practicing live fire drills with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket propelled grenades, grenade launchers, and various other weapons.
At the end of the video, Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s shadow governor for Kunduz, swears allegiance to new Taliban emir Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Afghan intelligence claimed it killed Salam in October, but Salam quickly quelled the rumors. The jihadists at the Omar ibn Khattab are then shown openly marching and parading with captured Afghan National Army vehicles through the streets of a town within Kunduz and the surrounding countryside.
The camp is named after Omar ibn Khattab, the second Muslim caliph who was a companion to the Prophet Muhammad. Under Umar’s rule in the seventh century, the caliphate took control of Persia and large areas of the Byzantine Empire.
The Afghan government has claimed it cleared Kunduz of a Taliban presence after the group overran the provincial capital of Kunduz City and several other districts. However, the Taliban has remained in the province and continues to run at least one camp there.
The Taliban has publicized several training camps in Afghanistan in recent years. In December 2014, the Taliban showcased a training camp in the Jawzjan district of Faryab Province. In January 2015, it highlighted a training camp in Kunar. Last June, the jihadist group advertised a “special forces” training camp somewhere in Afghanistan. Two months later, a training camp in the Zurmat district of Paktia Province was touted online. Last September, the Haqqani Network, a powerful subgroup of the Taliban, released a video from its Salahadin Ayyubi camp someplace in eastern Afghanistan.
Other jihadist groups also operate camps inside Afghanistan. For instance, the US government stated in 2014 that Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistani jihadist group that is closely allied with al Qaeda, “operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan.” The Turkistan Islamic Party, a Uighur jihadist group within al Qaeda’s international network, showcased a training camp reportedly in Afghanistan last year. The Imam Bukhari Jamaat, an Uzbek jihadist group that operates in both Syria and Afghanistan, also publicized a training camp in Afghanistan last year. Another Uzbek jihadist group, the Islamic Jihad Union, has also done the same.
Additionally, al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba are known to operate several training camps in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. A dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda military commander known as Qari Zia Rahman is known to have run training camps that are used to indoctrinate and train females, including children, to carry out suicide attacks on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. And the International Security Assistance force (ISAF) has targeted several bases and camps in Kunar over the years. [See LWJ report, ISAF captures al Qaeda’s top Kunar commander.]
Screenshots from the video:
Portion of the video showing snow on the ground, indicating the training compound has been long operational: