|US launches airstrikes on Taliban training camps|
|[LWJ] The US military launched a series of airstrikes on Taliban training camps located in Afghanistan’s remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, which borders Tajikistan. The camps were used by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and other terrorist groups.|
“Over the past 96 hours, US forces conducted air operations to strike Taliban training facilities in Badakhshan province, preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the border with China and Tajikistan by such organizations as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and others,” Resolute Support announced in a press release.
According to Resolute Support, the airstrikes also “destroyed stolen Afghan National Army vehicles that were in the process of being converted to vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.”
Badakhshan, once a peaceful province, has become a Taliban hotbed since the US withdrew the bulk of its forces after the troop surge ended in 2012. Of Badakhshan’s 28 districts, LWJ assesses three to be Taliban controlled and another nine to be contested.
ETIM’s emir has served on al Qaeda’s shura, and it has operated a training camp that was sponsored by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. After the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan in 2001, the ETIM established training camps in Pakistan.
ETIM fighters have fought alongside the Taliban and other jihadist groups against Coalition and Afghan forces since the US first invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
The US has previously targeted ETIM leaders inside Pakistan in its drone campaign. In Aug. 2010, the US thought it killed Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the emir of the ETIM, in a drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Turkistani later re-emerged in a video in 2015, and said he was severely wounded in the 2010 drone strike. Abdul Haq issued another in 2016 that took al Qaeda’s side in its dispute with the Islamic State.
The US was also thought to have killed Emeti Yakuf (a.k.a. Abdul Shakoor Turkistani), in a drone strike in Pakistan in Aug. 2012. Yakuf took control of the ETIM as Turkistani was recovering from his injuries, and also took control of al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2010.
|Turkistan Islamic Party leader thought killed in US drone strike|
|The emir of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) who was appointed by al Qaeda to direct operations in Pakistan's tribal areas is rumored to have been killed in the flurry of drone strikes that took place in North Waziristan this week.|
Emeti Yakuf and three of his "commanders" are thought to have been killed in Friday's drone strike on a training camp in the Shawal Valley, Pakistani intelligence told Dawn. Two leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan were also reportedly killed in the same strike. Yakuf's death has not been confirmed.
US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that they are investigating reports of Yakuf's death, and that he is one of numerous senior terrorist leaders being hunted in North Waziristan.
Yesterday, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that the remotely piloted Predators and Reapers were targeting an "important jihadi leader" in the region, but his name was not disclosed. Badruddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, is also rumored to have been killed in a drone strike this week, but the report is unconfirmed.
An al Qaeda operations chief
Yakuf, who is better known as Abdul Shakoor Turkistani or Abdul Jabbar, was given command of al Qaeda's forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the spring of 2010 after Saif al Adel, a top al Qaeda military strategist and now its deputy leader, left the region [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda appoints new leader of forces in Pakistan's tribal areas].
Yakuf took control of the Turkistan Islamic Party after his predecessor, Abdul Haq al Turkistani, was killed in the Feb. 14, 2010 strike on a compound in the village of Zor Babar Aidak near Mir Ali in North Waziristan. The Turkistan Islamic Party is known to operate in the Mir Ali region along with the Islamic Jihad Group, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
|China Concerned About Uyghur Rebels Operating In Pakistan|
|Beijing believes militants train in Pakistan before crossing the border and launching attacks in Xinjiang|
During his recent visit to Islamabad, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi asked the Pak government to take action against ethnic Uygur Islamic present in its lawless tribal areas.
Pakistain and China have enjoyed friendly ties for six decades, but Beijing has recently expressed reservations over alleged links between Pak and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Chinese authorities are said to be concerned about presence of the ETIM in Pak territory, where they say the fighters are being trained before they cross into Xinjiang to carry out attacks. But they did not discuss the issue publicly to ensure they don't embarrass Pakistain. The ETIM is also described as the Turkistani Islamic Party (TIP).
In an April 5 statement, Chinese Ministry of Public Security published a list of six with their profiles, saying they were operating in South Asia, without naming Pakistain. According to the Chinese list, Nurmemet Memetmin, who was described as the "commander of the ETIM", was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a "South Asian country", but he escaped in 2006 and has been planning new attacks against China, including the late July attacks on civilians in Kashgar. After the Kashgar attacks, Chinese authorities had invited then Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen (r) Ahmed Shuja Pasha to Beijing in August and told him the had allegedly been trained in Pakistain's tribal areas.
Xinjiang, which borders Pakistain and Afghanistan, is home to ethnic Uygurs, a Turkic-speaking and largely people who make up about 40 percent of the region's population. Founded in 1997, the ETIM is fighting to liberate the -majority Xinjiang province (also called East Turkestan) from China. The Chinese government says such groups - linked with Al Qaeda -are responsible for unrest in the province.
In the most serious incident of violence in decades, 197 people were killed and about 1,700 others injured on July 5, 2009, when riots between Uygur and Han ethnic groups erupted in the regional capital of Urumqi. Analysts say the riots shattered the authoritarian Communist Party's claims of harmony and unity among dozens of ethnic groups in China.
Experts on militancy confirm the presence of of the ETIM in Pakistain's North and South regions where several other foreign and international groups, such as the Al Qaeda, Union (IJU), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Army of Great and Ittehad-e-Jihad Islami also operate.
"There are dozens of Central Asian living in the tribal region," said a associated with Hafiz Gul Bahadur. "But it is very difficult for us to distinguish between the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Uyghurs because of similar facial features."
After Al Qaeda and the IMU, the ETIM is the third strongest foreign outfit operating in Pakistain's tribal areas, says Aqeel Yousafzai, a -based analyst. "The number of ETIM present in Pakistain has always been kept secret because it may hurt ties between China and Pakistain," Yousafzai wrote in his book 'Talibanisation'. According to his estimates, the number of Chinese in FATA was 50 to 300 during 2007-08.
The influence of ETIM among jihadi groups is so strong that the movement's leader Abdul Shakoor Turkistani was rumored to be 's successor after his death in May 2011, said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.
Rana said that the ETIM split into two factions last year. One concentrates on the separatist movement inside China, while a hard-line faction believes in a global jihad. Chinese are also present in northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, he added.
But the ETIM network has weakened significantly in recent years after a crackdown by Pak authorities and killing of many of its top leaders in drone strikes. Last year, Pakistain handed over to China a handful of Uyghur who were by the security forces in the tribal areas.
ETIM chief Hassan Mashom was killed by Pak security forces in 2003. His successor, Abdul Haq Turkistani, was killed in a drone attack in May 2010. Abdul Haq, who is also known as Memetiming Memeti, became a member of Al Qaeda's executive council in 2005, according to the United States Treasury Department, which declared him a global terrorist in 2009.
"We believe the ETIM is not only an enemy of China but also an enemy of Pakistain," Interior Minister told media when Haq was killed.