Asia/Middle East – The Islamic State is challenging the Taliban and al-Qaeda in their Afghanistan and Pakistan heartlands and claiming both countries as part of its 'caliphate'. Leaflets proclaiming the Islamic state includes Pakistan and Afghanistan were posted this week throughout Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. They have also been distributed to nearby Afghan refugee camps. An important Afghan anti-government fighting group announced that it will join the Islamic state if it meets the criteria of a caliphate. This week commentators have opined about whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a greater threat to the region, the world, the US than Russia under President Putin. Without taking sides in that discussion, one of the big differences between Russian strategic ambitions and ISIL's strategic goals is that ISIL has announced its mission as converting the entire world to Islam and killing those who resist. Today's announcement advances the mission. Putin has made no comparable claim. (KGS Night Watch 5 Sep 14)
Afghanistan – Two car bombs targeting local police and intelligence offices exploded in the city of Ghazni south of the Afghan capital Kabul it was reported on the 4 Sep 14. The explosions took place around the same time, in the same area in the centre of the city, and was followed by at least three hours of fighting which suggests a well planned and coordinated attack. There were reports that as many as 19 Taliban fighters had launched the attack of which 13 had been killed. In a message sent to Al Jazeera, Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said that the armed group was responsible for the attack. In recent months, the Taliban has targeted several government facilities.
On the 8 Sep 14 KGS Night Watch reported that the Afghanistan government forces are losing in at least four districts in Helmand province. "The situation is deteriorating and the Taliban are almost in the bazaar," the governor of Musa Qala district, Haji-Mohammad Sharif, said on the 5 Sep 14. "If the situation remains the same, the district will soon fall to the hands of the Taliban." According to accounts, the fighting has been heavy in Musa Qala during the past 10 days. Meanwhile a simultaneous Taliban ground assault has been underway in Sangin, Nowzad and Kajaki districts. The fighting in Helmand Province is a continuation of Taliban operations that began in Jun 14 in the same districts. The Afghan National Army launched a counteroffensive in Jul 14 and Aug 14 to recover the districts centres. In late August the Taliban renewed their attacks. The Taliban appear determined to take and hold ground, now that NATO air support has diminished or stopped. Afghan authorities are attempting to play down the gravity of the security situation in Helmand and elsewhere. Afghan officials in Helmand said nearly 1,000 people have died in Sangin District since June. They attribute their losses to a lack of NATO air support which they claim to have requested repeatedly to no avail. If Afghan forces cannot hold districts without NATO's combat air support, the Taliban will take over the country in a matter of months in 2015.
Australia – Australia has raised its terror threat level to "high" from "medium", saying there was an increased likelihood of an attack at home, despite stressing it had no knowledge of a specific plan it was reported on the 12 Sep 14. Australia has repeatedly raised the alarm about the number of its citizens believed to be fighting with armed groups in the Middle East, including a suicide bomber who killed three people in the Iraqi capital Baghdad in Jul 14 and two men shown in images on social media holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers. According to Australian officials, up to 160 people have either been involved in the fighting in Iraq and Syria or actively supporting armed groups, but this is the first time Australia has issued a high alert. David Irvine, the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), flagged the prospect of lifting the threat level on the 9 Sep 14 saying the number of Australians returning from fighting with the Islamic State and other armed groups posed a growing risk. Security agencies say that number is at least 20. Australia had been at the "medium" alert level since a four-tier system was introduced in 2003. A "high" alert level is used when officials believe an attack is likely, while a "severe" level threat means they believe an attack is imminent or has occurred.
India – The Indian authorities said they killed three antigovernment militants on the 2 Sep 14 after a shootout in the Indian-administered region of Kashmir. Indian forces had surrounded the militants’ house when the men inside began firing, officials said. Vijay Kumar, the area police chief, said the police had taken the father of one fighter to the site to ask him to surrender, but the man refused. The authorities said that the men were members of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a banned organization.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has announced the formation of an Indian branch of his global armed group that he said would spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across the subcontinent it was reported on the 4 Sep 14. In a video spotted in online "jihadist" forums on the 3 Sep 14 by the SITE terrorism monitoring group, Zawahiri said the new force would "crush the artificial borders" dividing Muslim populations in the region. Al-Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where its surviving leadership are thought to be hiding out, but Zawahiri said the group would take the fight to India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. "This entity was not established today but is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian sub-continent into a single entity," he said. Launching "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian sub-continent," Zawahiri may be attempting to recapture some of the limelight for his group and to exploit existing unrest in Kashmir and Myanmar especially since the Islamic State are achieving a number of the goals that the group originally laid out. Zawahiri called on the "umma," or Muslim nation, to unite around "tawhid," or monotheism, "to wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty and to revive its caliphate."He said the group would recognise the overarching leadership of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and be led day-to-day by senior Pakistani fighter Asim Umar. The video is produced by Al-Qaeda's usual media arm, the As-Sahab Media Foundation - "The Cloud" - and SITE reported that it had been widely distributed on jihadist online forums. 361 COMMENT: Zawahiri may feel that he has now lost the battle in urging Arab Muslims to fight. He has now decided to approach and appeal Indian, Pakistani and Bangladesh Muslims in order to accomplish what he has not been able to in Arabia. Although al-Qaeda has not gone away it is certainly in the background when it comes to encourage others to join his group. Whereas the al-Qaeda leader has been hiding in Pakistan his contentious opponent Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been carrying out their promises and therefore has a higher profile. On the other hand the al-Qaeda leader is issuing video statements. COMMENT ENDS
An Indian Shi'ite group has announced a huge bounty on leaders of Sunni Islamist organisations across the world including ISIS (now known as Islamic State), which is wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria an article in the IB Times announced on the 10 Sep 14. The All India Shia (Shi'ite) Hussaini Fund (AISHF) has said a reward of 10 million Indian Rupees (£100,000) will be given to anyone who kills one of five men; ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, Taliban chief Mullah Omar and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief Azhar Masood. "At the meeting of our all India executive on the 6 Sep 14 we discussed the matter of putting rewards on killing of these five persons heading five organisations involved in terrorism. The resolution was unanimously passed. We will give the reward to those who kill them," the secretary general of the Shi'ite group AISHF Syed Hasan Mehdi told the Press Trust of India. The group had earlier offered to send thousands of young Shi'ites to Iraq in order to participate in the ongoing battle against the Sunni insurgents. "We are putting posters across the country including Lucknow, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir to announce the reward as we feel that these terrorists do not deserve to live. They are killers of humanity and innocent persons of all the castes," the secretary general added. AISHF has claimed millions of Muslims across India are ready to contribute funds towards this cause.
Pakistan – A new breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban on the 5 Sep 14 welcomed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri’s announcement of the launch of a South Asian branch of the terror network. Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for the new Pakistani Taliban bloc, named Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Jamat-ul-Ahrar, hailed Zawahiri’s call. “We welcome the new announcement of the subcontinent branch of al-Qaeda. We believe that the branch will work hard for the achievement of the rights of Muslims in the subcontinent,” Ehsan said in a message posted on Twitter and Facebook. Ehsan said rights of Muslims in the region could only be achieved through Islamic sharia law and the establishment of a caliphate. Asim Umar, the head of the newly-created South Asia branch of Al-Qaeda, is a Pakistani ideologue who has produced a number of online calls to jihad but has a relatively low profile. Umar has appeared wearing a black turban and beard in several online videos produced by al-Qaeda and the TTP. The TTP is now effectively divided into two factions, one headed by Maulana Fazlullah, who was elected Nov 13 following the killing of ex-chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. The breakaway Jamat-ul-Ahrar (freedom fighters group) group announced its split on the 4 Sep 14 and named Omar Khalid Khorasani as its commander. Khorasani previously led a faction called Ahrar-ul-Hind, which claimed several attacks during a ceasefire period between the government and Taliban earlier this year, including one on an Islamabad court complex that killed 12 people. Analysts believe Khorasani has strong links to al-Qaeda and Zawahiri. In response to the latest al-Qaeda announcement, a foreign ministry spokesman said: “Pakistan has taken very resolute action against al-Qaeda and its remnants. Our military operation against terrorists is still going on. It is all inclusive and across the board.”
The majority of Taliban commanders in Pakistan have broken away from the group's leadership in a feud over an army offensive in the country's unruly tribal areas, a former intelligence chief has claimed. In a split along tribal lines, commanders from the Mehsud and Wazir tribes have turned their backs on the group's leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who belongs to the Yusufzai tribe. It is thought the split could prompt a reduction in violence in the country's tribal areas. The breakaway leaves Fazlullah, who is believed to be based in Kunar province over the border in Afghanistan, isolated. Large numbers of Uzbek and Arab fighters who had been fighting with the alliance are reportedly leaving the region as a result of the split. Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, a former Pakistan spy chief, said he believed many had crossed into Afghanistan and were planning to join ISIS fighters in Iraq. According to Gul, the two factions had disagreed over whether they should fight the Pakistan Army, which launched an offensive in the tribal areas and claimed to have killed more than 900 militants in Jun 14 alone. "Fazlullah wants to fight the Pakistan Army but Commander Sajna does not want to take it on. Now the Wazirs and Mehsuds are not fighting [the army]. "The Uzbeks and others are being pushed out. Strategically, Pakistan wins", he said. The new group has declared its allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has urged his followers not to attack the Pakistan Army but use Pakistan's territory as a safe haven and base for launching attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda's new South Asia branch has claimed responsibility for a raid on a Karachi naval yard that left a sailor and three attackers’ dead, adding they had help from former military officials. It is the first attack claimed by the fighter network's new wing, whose creation was announced by chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri during the reporting period. The claim of responsibility, released on the 11 Sep 14 will likely add to concerns about infiltration of the Pakistani military's ranks after the Taliban, who also claimed to be behind the attack, said they received inside help. Khawaja Asif, Pakistan's defence minister had voiced concerns when addressing parliament on the 10 Sep 14, saying: "We cannot rule out the inside help in this attack because without it the miscreants could not breach security." Al-Qaeda claimed that the target of the raid was a "US supply ship" and said the dead attackers included former Pakistan navy officers. It was not possible to confirm whether a US ship was present at the port. Later reports stated that the intention was to take over a Pakistani Navel ship and use its missile system to fire at an American Aircraft Carrier. 361 COMMENT: Two terrorist organisations have laid claim to the attack on the navel docks which occurred over the weekend of 6/7 Sep 14. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility in retaliation for the offensive in North Waziristan. The other claimant is the new al-Qaeda branch in Asia. The al-Qaeda branch in the Sub-Continent are claiming it as their first full attack since their announcement that they have formed in Asia due to being squeezed out of the Middle East by the Islamic State. Al-Qaeda claimed that the attack was on a US Navel ship that was docked in the Pakistan navy harbour. It is unclear if any US fleet or single ship was present during the attack of which news is very scarce. It does seem a little strange though for a terrorist organisation to announce its formation and then attack. The normal for these groups is to attack and then claim it on behalf of the new group. COMMENT ENDS
Follow on report dated 12 Sep 14:
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, the new group announced last week by Ayman al-Zawahiri to bolster his flagging fortunes, suffered a setback when three of its fighters were killed and seven arrested in its first ever terror attack. Heavily armed militants attacked a naval dock in Karachi's sea port on Saturday night (6 Sep 14) and targeted what they believed was an American aircraft carrier, but instead found a Pakistan Navy frigate and were overwhelmed before they could cause any damage, investigators said. Three jihadis were killed in the attack, four were captured and another three arrested the following day on information from interrogations. Two Pakistan Navy guards were wounded in the fighting. "It was a complete failure, they did not do any kind of damage, some were captured and we caught more, seven so far and may be more to come. They were well-equipped and came with the intention of taking a ship into their custody but they were caught in the initial stages," a senior source close to the investigation told the Telegraph. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, the militant group unveiled by Zawahiri last week to demonstrate his clout despite the rise of Islamic State (ISIL), claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday (11 Sep 14) and said former Pakistan Navy men had carried it out. "The Naval officers who were martyred on Saturday in the attack on Karachi were al-Qaeda members. They were trying to attack American marines and their cronies", the group said in a statement. It added that militants had successfully seized an American vessel but were thwarted by Pakistan Navy troops. "The Pakistani military men who died defending enemies of the Muslim nation...are cursed with hell", it added. Investigators denied that the all the attackers had belonged to the Pakistani Navy and said only one militant, who was killed in the fighting, was a former naval rating. They also said they were sceptical over whether al-Qaeda had any involvement in the attack and suspected it was claiming credit for another group's work. "If they did it why would they wait until Thursday to claim it?" said one source. The raid is the second attack on the Pakistan Navy's Karachi base in the last three years. In 2011 up to 20 Taliban militants attacked the port, killing 11 naval troops and a paramilitary soldier in a 12-hour siege. Two patrol planes given to Pakistan by the United States were destroyed in the attack. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/11092387/Al-Qaeda-India-branchs-first-attack-ends-in-dismal-failure-as-jihadists-raid-wrong-ship.html
Punjabi Taliban: The chief of the Taliban fighters in Punjab Province announced his group was abandoning its "armed struggle." Ismatullah Muawiya said that after consulting other Muslim leaders, his group would now limit its use of force to "infidel forces" and would focus on promoting Sharia it was reported on the 15 Sep 14. He accompanied the announcement with a declaration of the group's patriotism and an expression of its desire to defend Pakistan from "outside threats". Muawiya also said the Punjabi Taliban would continue to operate in Afghanistan, but would focus on preaching. He called on other Taliban factions to abandon their insurgencies in Pakistan. He called on the government to compensate those affected by its offensive in Waziristan and other tribal agencies and to rehabilitate them with "honour and dignity". "Peace is the need of the hour to foil conspiracies against Pakistan and its people," he said. This faction of the Taliban has attacked government installations infrequently in the past six years, but with significant success. Its emergence in Punjab Province proved that the Taliban were not just a Pashtun tribal phenomenon and had appeal among Punjabis in eastern Pakistan.