Al Qaeda-linked Uzbek groups advertise operations in Afghanistan

Islamic Jihad Union fighter shooting at Afghan troops in a dawn raid in eastern Afghanistan

Two al Qaeda-linked Uzbek jihadist groups have released videos touting their operations inside Afghanistan. The two groups, Katibat Imam al Bukhari (aka the Imam Bukhari Jamaat) and the Islamic Jihad Union, have claimed attacks in eastern and northern Afghanistan.

In Katibat Imam al Bukhari’s (KIB) video, the group shows its forces shelling an Afghan army installation somewhere in northern Afghanistan. Fighters can be seen firing mortars at buildings from afar, while also firing rounds from DShK machine guns. Archival photos are also included in the video, some of which appear to detail child or teenage soldiers. While the exact location of the attack was not provided, it appears to have taken place in the same province as last week’s IED video.

The second video released was from the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). Unlike KIB’s video, IJU’s focuses on heavy combat with Afghan troops in the eastern part of the country sometime late last year. The video details a dawn raid on an Afghan military base and was filmed with GoPros and camcorders. The IJU force can be seen firing at Afghan positions with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, while also firing at military helicopters with anti-air weaponry. No exact location was given, but the IJU is known to be active in the eastern Afghan provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Nangarhar.

The combat video comes just two days after IJU released another that details some of the foreign fighters in its ranks. Some of these fighters can be seen operating US weapons and vehicles.

IJU and KIB in Afghanistan

The IJU is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a jihadist group that historically fought with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The IMU split in 2015 when a faction swore allegiance to the Islamic State.

While the IJU is largely comprised of Uzbeks, it has many foreign fighters from other Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, within its ranks. Some Uighurs from China’s Xinjiang region have also joined the IJU.

In the past, there was a significant presence of German and Turkish Muslims in the Islamic Jihad Union. Some of these IJU fighters have been referred to as ‘German Taliban.’ This group released a video in 2009 of ‘German Taliban villages’ in Waziristan. Its fighters were seen training at camps and conducting military operations.

German members of the Islamic Jihad Union have also been killed in combat inside Pakistan. Eric Breininger, a German man who converted to Islam, was killed while assaulting a Pakistani military outpost in North Waziristan on April 28, 2010. Three Uzbek fighters were also killed in the attack. Breininger was wanted for plotting attacks against US military bases and personnel in Germany.

Turkish members of the Islamic Jihad Group were also reported killed along with an al Qaeda commander in a US Predator strike in North Waziristan in June 2010.

Americans have also joined the Islamic Jihad Group. In 2009, two Americans, Abu Ibrahim al Amriki and Sayfullah al Amriki, were featured in propaganda released by the jihadist group.

KIB has sworn allegiance to the Taliban’s leadership and has also played a prominent role in northwestern Syria fighting alongside al Qaeda’s forces there. According to RFE/RL, the Syrian wing is led by a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan who was sent to Syria by Taliban deputy emir Sirajuddin Haqqani, the operational leader of the powerful al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.

KIB took part in the al Qaeda-led 2015 offensive that took over Idlib Province, as well as the al Qaeda-led offensive in the southern Aleppo countryside and renewed clashes in Latakia last year. It has also advertised its training camps in the country, including at least two for children.

While it is not known if the IJU has officially sent fighters to Syria, at least one former commander was killed in the country. Abu Omar al Turkistani, a Uighur jihadist formerly in the IJU, was killed alongside two al Qaeda members in a US drone strike in Syria. He was the commander of Ansar Jihad, a largely Central Asian sub-unit of al Qaeda’s main force in Syria. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Uighur jihadist fought in Afghanistan, killed in Syria.]

Last month, the IJU also released a video of some of its fighters sending a message to “the Mujahideen in Syria.” The message from foreign fighters within the IJU implored “unity and strength” among Syria’s jihadist forces.

Photos from the KIB video:

Photos from the IJU videos:

Foreign fighters in IJU:

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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