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Uighur group in Syria creates Palestinian sub-unit

The logo of Katibat al Ghuraba al Turkistan’s Palestinian sub-unit, Saraya Ghuraba Filistin

Katibat al Ghuraba al Turkistan (KGT), a year-old Uighur jihadist group in Syria, has announced the creation of a Palestinian sub-unit within its organization. KGT’s new arm is designed to accommodate the Palestinians and other Arabs in its ranks.

KGT announced the creation of its Saraya Ghuraba Filistin, or the Strangers/Foreigners of Palestine Company, last night by publishing photos and creating its own separate Telegram channel for the sub-unit. The photos showed Palestinian members of KGT battling against regime forces in southern Aleppo near the town of Abu Dhuhur in Idlib province. Additionally, an audio recording by its leader, identified as Abu Muhammad al Filistini, a Sharia official in the larger KGT, was released.

Palestinians and other Arabs have been predominately featured in prior media released by KGT. In a video released last year, a message from KGT’s emir (leader) dubbed over in Uighur from Arabic indicated that he is likely not an ethnic Uighur himself. It is unclear how many Palestinians or other Arabs are within Saraya Ghuraba Filistin or KGT, which claims to be largely Uighur.

KGT was created last year and has been active both on the battlefield and on social media since. However, KGT has only recently gained prominence as its media capabilities have increased. It has also likely grown larger from obtaining fighters from other groups, as well as the native Syrians, which it has also showcased.

Al Qaeda figures and propaganda have played a prominent role in KGT videos, but the group has not sought to hide its ideology. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Mohammad Atef, Saeed al Masri, and Abdullah Azzam have all been featured. Clips from al Qaeda branches like Shabaab in Somalia as well as the Afghan Taliban, an al Qaeda ally, have also been used. [For more information on KGT, see Threat Matrix report, New Uighur jihadist group emerges in Syria.]

First photos showing KGT’s Saraya Ghuraba Filistin:

Caleb Weiss :Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.