Jund al-Khalifat Threatens to Attack France, US and Allies

photo jihadi finger sign

by Gordon M. Hahn

On March 22, 2015 the jihadi group calling itself Jund (Jound) al-Khalifa(t) threatened France, the US and its allies with terrorist attacks (https://horizon.hozint.com/2015/03/jound-al-khilafa-threatened-france-and-the-us-in-a-video-message/). Although likely unconnected to the crashing of the German airliner in the French Alps, the announcement raises tensions in a country that recently became victim to ISIL-inspired attacker. Jund al-Khalifat appears to be one and the same as the Kazakhstani group based on the border between eastern Afghanistan and the FATA province of Waziristan in Pakistan that carried out a pair of suicide bombings and other attacks in Kazakhstan in 2011 and claimed responsibility for the March 2012 attacks on French soldiers and Jewish civilians in France.

In 2011, Kazkahstan for the first time became a locus of significant jihadi activity, including suicide bombings and other a few other jihadi attacks.  The first successful suicide attacks ever to occur in Kazakhstan took place on 17 May and 24 May.[1]  July saw firearms attacks by four alleged mujahedin in the villages of Kenkiyak and Shubarshi that killed two policemen.[2] ‘Jund al-Khilafa’ (sometimes ‘Jundallah al-Khalifa’) or JaK, meaning ‘Soldiers of the Caliphate’, claimed responsibility for two 31 October 2011 blasts that killed one civilian in Atyrau, Kazakhstan.  The attack was said to be a warning against the government of Kazakhstan to repeal a recent ban on prayer in state institutions.[3]  Kazakhstani security captured three perpetrators of these attacks, alleging they were followers of the notorious suicide attack operative and theo-ideologist, Sheik Said Abu Saad Buryatskii, based with the Caucasus Emirate’s (CE) Ingushetiya network, the Galgaiche Vilaiyat (GV).[4] Buryatskii, born Aleksandr Tikhomirov and a Buryat-Russian, was based in Ingushetiya with the GV but worked closely with the CE’s suicide operations jamaat, the Riyadus Salikhiin Martyrs Birgade (RSMB), until his demise at the hand of Russian forces in March 2010.[5]

On 12 November 2011 there was a series of additional attacks across Kazakhstan.  The most deadly occurred in the southern city of Taraz (Dzhambul) and killed seven people. The man responsible for this attack is 34-year-old, Maksut Kariyev, a Kazakhi citizen.[6] Other incidents on that same day around Kazakhstan have led authorities to believe that Kariyev was part of a larger plot. Another bombing attempt also in Taraz was foiled that day. A checkpoint attack and another shootout between two policemen were not.[7]  On December 3rd a shootout between mujahedin and Kazakhstan security forces took place.

The CE has played a role in propagating the Kazakhstani mujahedin, providing a venue for their propaganda statements for more than a year and following this trend led me (IIPER, No. 37) to predict jihadi violence in Kazakhstan months before the fact.  The CE’s main website Kavkaz tsentr carried official statements and claims of responsibility for many of the abovementioned attacks in Kazakhstan made by the Kazakh-staffed and Waziristan-based jihadi ‘Jund al-Khalifat’ or JaK. The first tie between Kazakhstani mujahedin and the CE was an appeal by the former sent to the CE’s Galgaiche Vilaiyat that was promptly posted on the GV’s website, Hunafa.com, in November 2010.  A jihadi jamaat from Kazakhstan calling itself ‘Ansaru-d-din’ appealed to the CE GV mujahedin and Hunafa.com to help in promoting its call to Kazkahstan’s Muslims to make jihad using the material in “a file with information highlighting the theme of jihad” called ‘The Commandment of Jihad and Related Situations’ (Hukm dzhikhada i polozheniya, svyzannyie s etim).”  The appeal contains a link to “Hukm dzhikhada i polozheniya, svyzannyie s etim”, and both the appeal and the propaganda article call Kazakhstan’s Muslims to the global jihadi revolutionary movement.[8]  Also, the JaK issued on CE websites it claim of responsibility for the December 3rd clash with Kazakhstani security forces in southern Kazakhstan and threatened Russia with attacks for its alleged “call for the murder of the Muslims of Kazakhstan.”[9]

Like the Uzbek, Tajik and North Caucasus mujahedin before them, Kazakhstani mujahedin have been emerging within the global jihadi revolutionary movement, training and operating in Waziristan, Pakistan alongside mujahedin from Turkey and other Muslim countries.  In November 2011 CE websites posted two videos featuring Kazkhstani mujahedin, perhaps JaK fighters, based with the IJU in Waziristan.  One was an inspirational videotape produced by Badr al-Tawhid, the media arm of the Pakistan-based Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) active across Central Asia and in recent years internationally.  Like the CE, both organizations are allied with the global jihadi revolutionary movement and Al Qa`ida.  Over the last eight years the IJU has carried out operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, and Western Europe.  Both videos are combined in a single video titled ‘Appeal of the Kazakh Mujahedin Taking Part in the Jihad to the Muslims of Kazakhstan’ (Obrashchenie Kazakskikh mudzhakhidov, uchastvuyushikh v Dzhikhade, k musul’manam Kazakhstana).  The first video introduces some 10-15 mujahedin from Kazakhstan as well as Uzbekistan, Turkey, and “East Turkestan” – that is, Uighuristan or Xingjiang.  The second video is an appeal to Kazakhstan’s Muslims, which also extends a special greeting to the CE mujahedin, noting that they have chosen an amir and fight on the path of Allah.  The Kazkah amir emphasizes in the appeal that although the CE mujahedin hail from different North Caucasus republics, they have united ideologically and asks why the mujahedin of Central Asia have not been able to do the same.[10]  All of the above suggests the possibility of a joint CE-IJU-JaK plots in Eurasia, as do CE-IJU ties, of which there is strong evidence.[11]

In December 2011 the CE’s main website, ‘Kavkaz tsentr’, reported the JaK’s claim of responsibility for that year’s series of attacks in Kazakhstan. Specifically, the JaK claimed responsibility for the December 3rd clash with Kazakhstani security forces in southern Kazakhstan.  Five of its mujahedin were reported to have been killed, according to the JaK statement. The statement confirmed official reports on the day-long battle, which took place near the village of Bordelai, claimed two SpetsNaz troops were killed. The statement said that “thousands of Kazkah mujahedin are prepared to accept a martyrs’ death in defense and support of Islam.” The statement also threatened Russia with attacks for “its call for the murder of the Muslims of Kazakhstan.”[12]

In an earlier statement that preceded several other attacks, the ‘Kavkaz tsentr’ report notes, JaK warned the regime of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev about “grave consequences” that would ensue as a result of the passage of the law ‘On Religious Activity’ which bans performing the daily namaz prayers in state institutions.  It quotes the warning as follows: “We call on you to repeal these laws, and we want you to apologize before the people for this mistake and demand that you give full freedom to Muslims to practice their religion.  If you do not meet us halfway, we will be forced take appropriate measures.” There followed two explosions in the city of Atyrau three days later.  The JaK also claimed responsibility for those attacks.[13]

In the 2012 exchange of verbal attacks between one Kazakh Abu Jafar and the JaK, the latter’s response referred to the French jihadist Mohammed Merah, who carried out a series of attacks that killed French soldiers and Jewish civilians in Mountaban and Toulousse, France in March 2012 and was trained by the JaK.[14] In an internet article critical of the JaK, of jihad in general, and of said in Kazkahstan in particular, one Abu Jafar accused the JaK jihadists of being “kharijites” and “a gang of thieves.”[15] The JaK’s response noted, among many other things, that Merah killed French intelligence officers during “wartime” not because they were infidels but because they were working “for the enemy of the mujahedin of the Islamic Umma.” The statement also called on Allah to punish France for oppressing its Muslims and sending troops to fight Muslims in Afghanistan. The post concludes by reiterating that jihad’s goal is to establish Shariah law.[16] The response was posted on the CE-tied UmmaNews website and reposted on the CE’s main website Kavkaz tsentr on May 1st.  It appeared to be from someone defending JK perhaps than from a JK amir or mujahed, as it was signed amorphously “Jihad in Kazakhstan (Jihad KZ).” Rejecting Abu Jafar’s charges that jihadists are “one-sided, do not thirst for knowledge, and so on,” the Jihad KZ posting acknowledged that it is important to obey scholars. But it then took the jihadists’ self-appointed position of interpreter of the Koran and Allah’s will. The jihadists “see the clear indications in the Koran that Allah Himself regarded as takfir those who put non-Shariah laws above Shariah law.” Thus, according to the jihadists, “the opinion of the majority or unanimity of the scholars is not required, since the establishment of non-shariah law is haram (heresy) and is recognized by the infidel and, moreover, this is the sin of idolatry (monotheism or shirk) in essence (because), you see, only Allah has the right to indicate to us how to live.”[17]

In a continuation of the debate JaK revealed it has ties to Pakistan Taliban’s ‘Terik-e-Nafaz-E-Shariat-E-Mohammed. It reported that there are fighters of 30-40 years of age in the Khorasan mountains, citing the example of “Sheikh-mujahed” Maulan Fazlullah (amir of the Pakistan Taliban-tied group ‘Terik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed’ or TNSM), and most of the time the mujahedin are training and “seeking knowledge” of Islam.[18]  The article’s reference to Flazullah, sometimes called the ‘Radio Mullah’ or ‘chief of Swat Valley’, suggests that the JK might be working with him and TNSM.

In October 2012 the JaK’s leader, Khalifat Moezeddine Garsallaoui was killed in North Waziristan, Pakistan.[19] Garsallaoui, who was a Swiss citizen of Tunisian origins who was considered to be a senior al Qaeda operative in North Waziristan, trained Merah He also trained Kazakh citizens and sent them back to Kazakhstan to fight. Jund al-Khilafa was successful in targeting Kazakhstan one more time prior to the death of its leader, with a 31 October blast in Atyrau.[20] In December 2012, Kazakhstani authorities designated Jund al-Khilafah a terrorist organization.[21]

There have been no attacks in Kazakhstan since the October 2012 attack, and it remains to be seen whether the JaK’s capacity is sufficient to make good on its threat to attack France again. However, it is important to note that the JaK has shown a propensity to follow the teachings of the CE’s late ‘sheikh’ Buryatskii, suggesting the possibility of suicide bombings of the kind Buryatskii propagandized, organized and inspired in Russia.[22]

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Footnotes

[1] Kazakhstan Suicide Bombing Puts Spotlight on Western Regions,” Eurasianet.org, 24 May 2011, 2:10, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/63549; “Two die in Kazakhstan car blast,” AFP, 24 May 2011, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/two-die-in-kazakhstan-car-blast-20110524-1f1zk.html; “Suicide Bomber has Shahid Belt in Blast in Kazakhstan,” RETWA, 17 May 2011, www.retwa.com/home.cfm?articleId=11372;  and “Kazakh City Hit By Suicide Blast, First Known Attack Of Its Kind,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 17 May 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/kazakhstan_suicide_bomber/24177028.html and “Suicide bomber attacks Kazakh secret police HQ,” Telegraph, 17 May 2011, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/kazakhstan/8518895/Suicide-bomber-attacks-Kazakh-secret-police-HQ.html.  The second attack, a car bomb, occurred outside the Kazakh security service detention facility in the capitol city of Astana and killed two, but authorities quickly began casting doubt on the version that this second explosion was indeed a terrorist attack.  “Blast Kills Two Outside Kazakh Security Service Building,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL), 24 May 2011 09:02, www.rferl.org/content/blast_outside_security_service_building_kazakh_capital/24184422.html.

[2] Two of the four men received 14-year jail terms and the other two, who were the leaders, were sentenced to life in prison. “Kazakhstan Imposes Tougher Measures to Stem the Rise of Religious Extremism,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 21 October 2011, http://soc.kuleuven.be/iieb/cee/aggregator?page=5; “Kazakhs Sentenced For Islamic Extremism And Shoot-Out With Police,” RFERL, 7 October 2011, www.rferl.org/content/kazakhs_sentenced_for_islamic_extremism/24351916.html; Yelena Altman, “Four Sentenced for Jihadi Attacks in Kazakhstan,” IIPER, No. 46, 31 October 2011.

[3] “Kazakhstan: The responsibility for the bombings in Atyrau took the “Soldiers of the Caliphate”,” Fergana News, 1 November 2011, http://www.fergananews.com/news.php?id=17570&mode=snews.

[4] “Kazakh Officials Say Terrorist Group Involved In Atyrau Bombings,” Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFERL), 9 November 2011, http://www.rferl.org/content/kazakh_officials_say_terrorist_group_involved_in_atyrau_bombings/24385923.html.

[5] Gordon M. Hahn, “Sheik Said Abu Saad Buryatskii: New Basaev of the Caucasus,” Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report, No. 1, 3 November 2009, http://www.miis.edu/media/view/19011/original/KAVKAZJIHAD_MonTREPsite_BuryatskiiArticle_3.doc.

[6] “Kazakhstan: The terrorist underground is, and it does not intend to sit idly by,” Fergana News, 23 November 2011, www.fergananews.com/article.php?id=7183 and Yelena Altman and Gordon M. Hahn, “Jihad Comes in Force to Kazakhstan,” IIPER, No. 48, 12 December 2011.

[7] According to Fergana News, Kariyev first shot two employees of the Department of National Security Committee of Dzhambul region, then attacked the owner of a Mazda-626, stole the vehicle, and continued to a gun shop. There, he killed a security guard and fatally wounded a passerby. After picking up semi-automatic weapons, a “Saiga” and CZ”, and ammunition, he managed to kill two police officers. Kariyev continued home where he took an RPG-26 and arrived at the regional department of the National Security Committee. There, he shot at the walls and windows of the building. After 12 hours and 45 minutes of running loose and managing to wound two more officers, Kariyev was finally detained. However, while being arrested he was able to detonate an explosive device killing both himself and the arresting officer. “Kazakhstan: suicide bombers carried out a series of attacks in Taraz. Seven people were killed,” Fergana News, 14 November 2011, http://www.fergananews.com/news.php?id=17619&mode=snews.

[8] “Obrashchenie Kazakhstanskogo dzhamaata ‘Ansaru-d-din’,” Hunafa.com, 10 November 2010, 1:01, http://hunafa.com/?p=3839 and Gordon M. Hahn, “Kazakhstan Jamaat ‘Anasru-d-din’ Issues Call to Jihad,” IIPER, No. 30, 29 November 2010.

[9] “Dzhundallah al-Khalifat o boe v Yuzhnom Kazakhstane,” Kavkaz tsentr, 9 December 2011, 18:35, www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2011/12/09/87270.shtml and see Gordon M. Hahn, “Islamic Brigade ‘Jundallah Al-Khalifat’ Claims Responsibility for Kazakhastan Attacks,” IIPER, No. 50, 25 January 2012.

[10] The video of the obrashchenie disappeared from the right-hand video bar on the CE’s main website Kavkaz tsentr before it could be downloaded by IIPER.  See Gordon M. Hahn, “IJU Video Appeal from Kazakhstani Mujahedin in Waziristan,” IIPER, No. 49, 30 December 2011.

[11] For overviews of CE-IJU ties see Gordon M. Hahn, “Possible CE Plot to Assassinate Vladimir Putin Fioled,” IIPER, No. 53, 12 March 2012 and Gordon M. Hahn, “More Evidence of CE Ties to the Global Jihadist ‘Islamic Jihad Union’,” IIPER, No. , 45, 10 October 2011.

[12] “Dzhund al-Khalihat o boe v Yuzhnom Kazakhstane,” Kavkaz tsentr, 9 December 2011, 18:35, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2011/12/09/87270.shtml.

[13] “Dzhund al-Khalihat o boe v Yuzhnom Kazakhstane,” Kavkaz tsentr, 9 December 2011, 18:35, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2011/12/09/87270.shtml.

[14] For a full discussion of the Abu Jafar article and subsequent debate, see Gordon M. Hahn, “Debate Surrounding Kazakhstan’s ‘Jund al-Khalifat’ Mujahedin,” Islam, Islamism and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER), No. 57, 1 June 2012, https://gordonhahn.com/2012/06/01/islam-islamism-and-politics-in-eurasia-report-iiper-57/ and Gordon M. Hahn, “Final Word in the ‘Jund al-Khalifat’ Debate Reveals JaK Ties to Pakistan Taliban’s ‘Terik-e-Nafaz-E-Shariat-E-Mohammed,” Islam, Islamism and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER), No. 58, 21 June 2012, https://gordonhahn.com/2012/06/21/islam-islamism-and-politics-in-eurasia-report-iiper-58/.

[15] Abu-Jafar, “Voinam ‘virtual’nogo’ khalifat ili ‘oproverzhenie oproverzheniy’,” Islam.ucoz.net, 20 April 2012, 18:32, http://islam.ucoz.net/news/voinam_virtualnogo_khalifata_ili_oproverzhenie_oproverzhenij/2012-04-20-110.

[16] Dzhihad v Kazakhstane (Dzhikhad KZ), “Vtoroi otvet na kritiku v adres ‘Dzhund al’-Khalifat”.

[17] Dzhihad v Kazakhstane (Dzhikhad KZ), “Vtoroi otvet na kritiku v adres ‘Dzhund al’-Khalifat,” Umma News, 1 May 2012, 18:14, http://ummanews.com/opinions/6747——-l–r.html and Kavkaz tsentr, 1 May 2012, 18:43, http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2012/05/01/90319.shtml.

[18] “Tretii i zaklyuchitelnyi otvet na kritiku v adres ‘Dzhund al’-Khalifat’,” Umma News, 31 May 2012, 03:37, http://ummanews.com/opinions/7149———l–r.html.

[19] “Soldiers of Khalifat leader who trained Kazakh terrorists eliminated,” Tengri News, 18 October 2012, http://en.tengrinews.kz/crime/Soldiers-of-Khalifat-leader-who-trained-Kazakh-terrorists-eliminated-13847/

[20] “Threat from the Soldiers of Khalifat deemed real in Kazakhstan,” Tengri News, 06 December 2012, http://en.tengrinews.kz/crime/Threat-from-the-Soldiers-of-Khalifat-deemed-real-in-Kazakhstan-15034/

[21] “Jund al-Khilafah a threat to Kazakhstan, KNB says,” Central Asia Online, 04 December 2012, http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/newsbriefs/2012/12/04/newsbrief-09

[22] See Hahn, “Debate Surrounding Kazakhstan’s ‘Jund al-Khalifat’ Mujahedin” and Hahn, “Final Word in the ‘Jund al-Khalifat’ Debate Reveals JaK Ties to Pakistan Taliban’s ‘Terik-e-Nafaz-E-Shariat-E-Mohammed,” Islam, Islamism and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER), Nos. 57 and 58.

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Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch; and Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor, MonTREP, Monterey, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and wrote, edited and published the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report at CSIS from 2010-2013. Dr. Hahn has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute.

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About Gordon M. Hahn