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China’s Jundullahs: Home-Grown Jihadis

The phenomenon of Jundullahs (Soldiers of Allah), which refers to angry young Muslims not belonging to any organisation taking to acts of reprisal terrorism, has spread from Pakistan to the Muslim majority Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. Jundullahs were believed responsible for most of the acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan last year.

2.Unlike the Jundullahs of Pakistan, those of Xinjiang have not so far resorted to suicide terrorism.Their attacks have been against selected hard targets such as border police guards, offices of the Public Security Department and other government offices. They have carefully avoided causing fatalities among innocent civilians. Their targets have been mainly Han Chinese working for the Government in Xinjiang. They have avoided killing even Han civilians. Their modus operandi involved use of local materials of an unsophisticated nature such as tins filled with gasoline and home-made hand-grenades. They travelled to the scene of the attack in cars- some of them stolen taxis driven by fellow-Jundullahs. When they did not have any explosive material or guns at their disposal, they have used knives to cause fatalities. In one incident, they used a heavy truck to run over 16 jogging police guards in Kashgar.

3. The Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET), a Pakistan (North Waziristan) based Uighur organisation, which the Chinese authorities used to blame in the past for such incidents, draws its volunteers mainly from the members of the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan, the Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Turkey. Subsequently, the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or Group, also based in North Waziristan, was suspected by them. This was evident from a number of queries received by me from readers in China of the article about the IJU written by me on September 6,2007, titled “Global Jihad: Uzbeks To The Fore” (Annexed). This article has had a large number of readers in China.

4. After the latest three incidents- one before the inauguration of the Beijing Olympics and two after- the Chinese authorities seem to be confused. The perpetrators of these three incidents- including four women, one of them a 15-year-old girl- were local residents of the areas where their attacks took place. There is so far no evidence that they had ever travelled outside Xinjiang and underwent training in any camp of either the IMET or the IJU. The Chinese authorities are for the present not connecting these three incidents to either of these organisations.

5. From the evidence available so far, these three incidents seem to have been in reprisal for the public execution of two Uighurs in Kashgar on July 9 on a charge of participating in the activities of the IMET. These two executions and the subsequent forcible closure of about 40 allegedly illegal mosques have caused a wave of anger among the local residents, who have been taking to acts of reprisal. Some foreign-based Uighur organisations, with suspected links to the IMET, have claimed credit for these incidents in their web sites or statements, but their claims have not so far been corroborated.

6. The three recent incidents which have mystified the authorities are:

AUGUST 4,2008:Fourteen border police guards were killed on the spot and two others succumbed to injuries later when a 28-year-old taxi driver later identified by the name Kurbanjan Hemit, a resident of Kashgar, drove a stolen truck into a group of 70 police guards jogging on the road in the morning. Initially, the Chinese authorities had claimed that they were killed by home-made explosives and knives, but subsequent reports indicated that they were crushed to death under a truck. The driver had an accomplice, who was also a native of Kashgar. He was identified as Abdurrahman Azat, a 33-year-old vegetable vendor. He had placed himself with a mobile telephone outside the border police post. He reportedly informed the driver as soon as the police guards came out and started jogging on the road. As the truck ran over them, the vegetable vendor threw a home-made bomb at the police post and killed some of the injured with a knife used for cutting vegetables. Both the attackers were arrested and are under interrogation. AUGUST 10: Between 3 and 4 AM, 15 Uighurs in different taxis drove round the town of Kuqa (pronounced Kucha), located midway on the railway line between Kashgar and Urumqi, the capital of the province, and threw home-made hand-grenades and tins filled with gasoline at the local office of the Public Security Department, other government offices, hotels and shops owned by Hans. Since there were not many people on the road at such an early hour in the morning, there were only two fatalities, a police officer and a civilian. The police, who were initially taken by surprise, subsequently managed to corner the attackers and shot dead eight of them. Two blew themselves up with hand-grenades in order to escape capture. Two, including a 15-year-old Uighur girl (Hailiqiemu Abulizi), who was badly injured by a hand-grenade, were captured. Three managed to escape.The Germany-based East Turkestan Information Center (ETIC) said that “East Turkestan freedom and independence fighters attacked a Party building … a people’s government building, a tax office, bazaar management, and brothel on Aug. 10.” It added that the attackers, seven men and four women, were “martyred.” AUGUST 12:At the town of Yamanya, about 30 Kms from Kashgar, an unspecified number of persons jumped out of a vehicle at a road check-point and stabbed to death three security guards, who were stopping and checking vehicles. A fourth guard was badly injured. It is not known what happened to the attackers. 7. Since the August 4 incident, the local authorities have been raiding all mosques in Xinjiang and rounding up suspects. On August 5, they issued instructions banning the use of words like “jihad”, “pan-Islamism”, “pan-turkism” etc and any reference to Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and any pro-Al Qaeda organisation.They also drew the attention of the local Uighurs to the already-existing bans on unauthorised prayer congregations and ostentatious construction of mosques. They also reminded the clerics that all religious sermons should be based on the Communist Party’s interpretation of the Holy Koran and warned Uighur Government servants that they would be held responsible if any act of violence took place in their areas or originated from mosques frequented by them. They are also making a background check of all Uighurs studying in driving schools.

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. e-mail: )


Global Jihad: Uzbeks To The Fore – International Terrorism Monitor—Paper No. 273 ( 6-9-07)

By B. Raman

After the Arabs and the Pakistanis, the Uzbeks have come to the forefront of Al Qaeda-inspired global jihad.

2. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan ( IMU) led by Tahir Yuldeshev now co-ordinates the training of volunteers from different jihadi terrorist organisations of Pakistan as well as from other countries of the world. Till last year, its training infrastructure was located in South Waziristan, but after clashes with some sections of the local tribals, it has shifted its infrastructure to North Waziristan. It enjoys the support of the Mehsud sub-tribe of the Pashtuns led by Baitullah Mehsud and of the former students of the two madrasas run by the Lal Masjid of Islamabad. Reliable police and tribal sources in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan say that many, if not most, of the acts of suicide terrorism and attacks on the Pakistani Armed Forces since the Pakistan Army’s commando action in the Lal Masjid between July 10 and 13, 2007, including the killing of three Chinese nationals in Peshawar, were carried out by angry tribals motivated and trained by the IMU. The IMU consists of Uzbeks recruited from Uzbekistan as well as Afghanistan and has a small number of Chechens, Uighurs and Tajiks in its ranks. Till now, the IMU’s acts of terrorism have been confined to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. It has not come to notice for any jihadi activities in other countries.

3. A second Uzbek group operating from North Waziristan, which calls itself the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG), came into being in Pakistani territory post 9/11 as a result of a split in the IMU following the US military strikes in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It describes Osama bin Laden, Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Neo Taliban, and Maulana Samiul Haq, the Amir of a faction of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam Pakistan, as its mentors. It focusses on training volunteers from the Western countries as well as from Uzbekistan.

4. It came to notice for the first time in April 2004 when it claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings around Tashkent and Bukharo in Uzbekistan which killed 47 people. The attacks targeted local government offices, as well as a crowded market. On July 30, 2004, it carried out simultaneous bombing attacks on the US Embassy, the Israeli Embassy, and the office of the Uzbek Prosecutor General, killing at least two people and wounding many others.

5. A statement purported to have been disseminated by it said: “A group of young Muslims executed martyrdom operations that put fear in the apostate government and its infidel allies, the Americans and Jews. The mujahidin belonging to Islamic Jihad Group attacked both the American and Israeli embassies as well as the court building where the trials of a large number of the brothers from the Group had begun. These martyrdom operations that the group is executing will not stop, God willing. It is for the purpose of repelling the injustice of the apostate government and supporting the jihad of our Muslim brothers in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Hijaz, and in other Muslim countries ruled by infidels and apostates.”

6. On May 26, 2005, the US State Department issued the following statement: “The Department of State on May 25 announced the designation of the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. This designation blocks all property, and interests in property, of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U. S. persons. The Secretary of State took this action in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Department of Homeland Security. The Islamic Jihad Group, active in Central Asia, broke away from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization that is listed by the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee. On July 30, 2004, the Islamic Jihad Group conducted coordinated bombing attacks in Tashkent against the U.S. and Israeli Embassies, and the office of the Uzbek Prosecutor General, killing at least two people and wounding nine. The Islamic Jihad Group claimed responsibility for these attacks and indicated that future attacks are planned. The Islamic Jihad Group continues to target Americans and U.S. facilities overseas and is a dangerous threat to U.S. interests. After an explosion at a safehouse in Bukharo, Uzbekistan, IJG suicide bombers attacked a popular bazaar and other locations in Tashkent in March and April 2004, resulting in the deaths of more than a dozen police officers and innocent bystanders and dozens of injuries. The attackers in the March and April 2004 attacks, some of whom were female suicide bombers, targeted the local government offices of the Uzbekistani and Bukharo police, killing approximately 47 people, including 33 terrorists. These attacks marked the first use of female suicide bombers in Central Asia. Those arrested in connection with the attacks in Bukharo have testified to the close ties between the IJG leaders and Usama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Kazakhstani authorities have declared that IJG members were taught by al-Qaida instructors to handle explosives and to organize intelligence work and subversive activities. Kazakhstan has arrested several IJG members and put them on trial.”

7. In October, 2005, the British Government declared it as a terrorist organisation despite strong opposition from human rights groups, which alleged that the Uzbek Government was projecting political dissidents opposed to it as pro-Al Qaeda terrorists.

8.The IJG, which was formed in 2002 to oppose the co-operation extended by the Government of Islam Karimov to the US in its operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, projects the US and Israel as the main enemies of Islam and all Muslim countries co-operating with the US as apostates, which need to be opposed. The stated political objective of the IMU is to rid the Central Asian Republics (CAR) and the Xinjiang region of China of the lingering influence of Communism and make them part of an Islamic Caliphate. The IJG, which also has the over-all objective of a global Islamic Caliphate, projects itself as a global jihadi organisation and not a basically Uzbek organisation. It says that since Islam does not recognise nationalities or ethnicities, any Muslim can become its member irrespective of where he or she lives. Since it describes the US and Israel as its principal enemies, it welcomes volunteers from countries where the US and Israel have a large presence.

9. In an interview on May 31, 2007, Ebu Yahya Muhammed Fatih, who describes himself as the Commander of the Islamic Jihad Union, stated as follows:

“After the fall of the Afganistan Islamic Administration,we who shared the same opinions came together and decided to organize groups which will conduct jihad operations against the infidel constitution of cruel Karimov in Uzbekistan. The sole aim of all the emigrant-mujahedeen brothers was to find war-like solutions against the infidel constitution of cruel Karimov. For this aim our Union was established in 2002. “Our Union’s aim is, under the flag of justice and Islam Dominancy, to save our Müslim brothers who have been suffering from the cruelty of pre-Soviet period and Uzbekistan, and to take them out of the swamp of cruelty an infidelity, as well as to help other Müslim brothers all around the world as per God and his Prophet’s orders. “Members of our Union are not members of a specific tribe or a nation. As there is no nationalism and tribalism in Islam, our Union is formed of the believers from all over the world and multi-national emigrants travelling to praise the religion. “Today we proceed according to our targeted goals with all our means. Muslim youth in the republics of former Soviet Union who found the path of Allah and are ready to fight for their religion have been trained in various fields in the training facilities of the Union. One of the armed forces of the Union is active in Afghanistan. Besides, we have been in contact and also been working on our common targets together with Caucasian mujahedeens. We have also been working together on plans and aims against the infidel regime of Uzbekistan which is one of our major targets.”

10. In April, 2007, the US Embassy in Berlin announced that it was strengthening security at US facilities in Germany in response to what it described as an increased threat of terrorism. Mr. August Hanning, a former head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency known as the Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND), who is now Deputy Interior Minister, said in an interview that 14 German Islamists had gone to Pakistan for training. He also said that in recent months the Pakistani authorities had detained at least seven German Islamists “who could have been involved in planning attacks”.

11. On September 5, 2007, German Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms announced the arrest of three persons and the recovery from them of 700 kilos of chemicals capable of being converted into explosives. German media reports said that they were planning attacks against a US military base in Ramstein and the Frankfurt airport. Two of the arrested persons have been described as white converts to Islam, both German nationals, and the third as of Turkish origin. The Federal Prosecutor named the three persons aged 22,28 and 29 as belonging to the German cell of the Islamic Jihad Union. It has been reported that seven more members of the cell are still at large.

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