Thursday, August 1, 2019

UN: Islamic Jihad Union operates in Syria, BY CALEB WEISS

The Afghanistan-based Uzbek jihadist group Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is also operating inside Syria, according to a new report released by the United Nations Security Council.

“The Islamic Jihad Group [another name for IJU] is now under the full control of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham,” the report stated. This is the first time the IJU has been officially linked to operations in Syria.

The IJU is an al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is mainly comprised of Uzbeks and other Central Asians, and fights under the auspices of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The UN’s monitoring team report also states that the “group comprises between 30 and 40 ethnic Uzbeks and and a smaller number of Turkish nationals.”

While the IJU has never formally announced a presence inside Syria, the group likely conducted its operations in the country through the group Ansar Jihad. The description of the IJU in Syria given by the UN matches with the known information of Ansar Jihad.

Ansar Jihad was ostensibly founded in late 2015 and led by an ethnic Uighur fighter, Abu Omar al Turkistani, until his death in early 2017.

At the time, Ansar Jihad made no mention of any ties to any other organization and claimed to be an independent jihadist group.

However, evidence suggested it was always tied to the IJU and operated as a sub-unit of Al Nusrah Front and later Jabhat Fateh al Sham (which became HTS).

They claimed to be a mainly ethnic Uzbek unit, joining the likes of Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) and Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB) in northwestern Syria. KIB also maintains a branch inside Afghanistan, as does its ally the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP).

It would not be a huge leap for the IJU to also send fighters to Syria, much like its allies in the TIP, KIB, and the former Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. In fact, the UN notes that the IJU’s Uzbek fighters in Syria came from Afghanistan.