Islamic Jihad Union showcases ‘special forces’ training camp

IJU fighters training in an undisclosed location of Afghanistan

The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an al Qaeda-affiliated group loyal to the Taliban, released a video showcasing a training camp for its ‘special forces’ that is purportedly located somewhere in Afghanistan. The video is of higher quality than the group normally produces, indicating increased media capabilities.

The IJU video, which is dated from earlier in October, shows its fighters training in a compound, undergoing hand-to-hand combat and urban warfare training. The jihadists are seen practicing how to storm buildings, clear rooms, and take prisoners. The trainees are also taught marksmanship with small arms and suppressed rifles. Additionally, the jihadists are trained to use motorcycles to conduct assassinations. In addition to the video, a small photo set showing further marksmanship training was also released.

It is unclear where the training camp is located in Afghanistan, but the IJU is known to operate in northern Afghanistan, as well as on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. However, the landscape may suggest the camp is located in northern Afghanistan.

The Islamic Jihad Union is a splinter faction of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and a substantial number of its members are from Central Asia. However, a significant number of Europeans, including Germans and Turks, are known to have joined the IJU. In 2009, the IJU established the German Taliban Mujahideen and the Victorious Sect to accommodate an influx of European jihadists into Pakistan’s tribal areas. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, ‘German Taliban Mujahideen’ leader thought killed in US airstrike.]

Prior to the Pakistani Army’s offensive in the tribal agency of North Waziristan in June 2014, the IJU’s leadership and much of its network was based in the jihadist hub of Mir Ali. The US has killed several top IJU leaders, including its emir, Najmuddin Jalolov, in drone strikes in North Waziristan.

The IJU has been waging jihad in the Afghan-Pakistan region for more than a decade. It maintains close ties with al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The US government listed the group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization in May 2005. Its members who are in custody “have testified to the close ties between the [IJU] leaders and Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar,” the US State department said in its designation.

No end to jihadist training camps in Afghanistan

Despite the presence of US forces dedicated to targeting terrorist groups in Afghanistan, these organization have been able to establish and operate training camps throughout the country.

Since 2014, the Taliban has publicized at least 16 of its training camps. In late 2015, the Taliban announced that its Khalid bin Walid Camp operated 12 satellite facilities throughout Afghanistan, and had the capacity to “train up to 2,000 recruits at a single time.” Additionally, it said the Khalid bin Walid Camp “trains recruits in eight provinces” (Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Ghor, Saripul, Faryab, Farah and Maidan Wardak) and “has around 300 military trainers and scholars.”

Other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, are known to operate camps inside Afghanistan. In 2015, the US raided an al Qaeda camp in Bermal district in Paktika, and two others in the Shorabak district in Kandahar province. The outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, said that one of the camps in Shorabak was the largest in Afghanistan since the US invaded in 2001. Al Qaeda has also operated camps in Kunar and Nuristan.

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistani jihadist group that is closely allied with al Qaeda, “operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan,” the US government stated in 2014. The Turkistan Islamic Party and the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, Uighur and Uzbek jihadist groups, respectively, which operate in both Syria and Afghanistan, have both claimed to operate camps inside Afghanistan. Coalition forces have also raided Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan suicide training camps in Samagan and Sar-i-Pul in the past.

Clips from the IJU video:

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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