Uzbek jihadist group claims capture of Afghan militiamen

Photo released by Katibat Imam al-Bukhari’s Afghanistan branch today.

Earlier today, the Uzbek jihadist group, Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KIB), released two photos from its Afghanistan branch. The photos detail the capture of several pro-government Afghan militiamen after a claimed joint attack with Taliban soldiers.

Though claiming the operation took place yesterday, the jihadist group did not specify where the raid took place. However, KIB is known to operate in Faryab and Jowzjan, where ethnic Uzbeks constitute a large portion of the population.

The United Nations has also confirmed that KIB operates in Faryab alongside local Taliban forces.

A statement previously released by the Taliban also appears to largely confirm KIB’s statement. Yesterday, the Taliban said that “3 arbakis [pro-government tribal militiamen] surrendered in Gurziwan,” a district of Faryab. Though as shown above, KIB’s photo indicates that five militiamen were captured.

Since 2016, KIB has sporadically released propaganda from its Afghanistan wing. That year, the group released two videos from the northern part of the country depicting training camps for both general indoctrination and lessons on the manufacturing of IED’s, along with combat footage.

The promotion of its Afghanistan activities that year correlates to when fighters from its Syrian wing began redeploying to Afghanistan, as confirmed by the United Nations.

Since then, other releases have focused on combat footage or captured weapons from Afghan forces. Smaller sporadic attacks, such as sniper operations, have also been claimed.

Since 2018, KIB has openly identified itself as part of the Afghan Taliban as it refers to itself as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Katibat Imam al Bukhari,” a link to the official name used by the Taliban.

Further showing the group’s support to the Taliban, KIB’s Syrian wing congratulated the group for its “victory” inside Afghanistan following the announcement of a deal between the Taliban and the United States.

Inside Syria, KIB’s local branch has played a prominent role fighting alongside various al-Qaeda-linked groups since 2014.

Prior to his death in 2017, RFE/RL confirmed that the Syrian wing was led by a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan who was sent to Syria by the Taliban and Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the Taliban’s top deputies and leader of the powerful al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.

In March 2018, the US State Department added KIB to its list of specially designated global terrorist organizations. State’s designation notes KIB’s close ties to various al-Qaeda groups inside Syria. It played a prominent role in the takeover of Idlib in 2015.

Much like KIB’s Afghanistan wing, its Syrian branch also swears allegiance to Mullah Akhundzada and the Afghan Taliban.

As the Taliban routinely claims that al-Qaeda and other foreign jihadist groups do not operate inside Afghanistan, foreign jihadist groups continue to claim operations inside the country undercutting the Taliban’s lie.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of 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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