Turkistan Islamic Party highlights joint raids with the Afghan Taliban

A child fighter can be seen mounting a heavy-machine gun in a captured US-made Humvee.

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a largely Uighur jihadist group that is affiliated with al Qaeda, released a new video over the weekend highlighting its joint operations alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is unclear where the video was filmed, but the locales featured appear to be in northern Afghanistan.

The video, dated for December 2017, primarily highlights the group’s combat operations, with sections dedicated to showing the overrunning of several remote Afghan military outposts in mountainous terrain. TIP and Taliban fighters are shown killing or capturing at least two dozen Afghan troops. Additionally, the two groups seized copious amounts of weapons and ammunition and several US-made Humvee vehicles. In some scenes, the jihadists are seen using captured Humvees in the assaults.

The TIP fighters are shown fighting under the Taliban’s flag and appear to be taking battlefield direction from Taliban field commanders. At least one child fighter is shown in the video. In separate scenes, some of the top TIP leaders are seen giving speeches. This includes Abdullah Mansour, who is the global deputy emir of TIP. Some of the video is also dedicated to anti-Chinese propaganda, as the TIP’s ultimate goal is an Islamic state within Xinjiang, China.

Several fighters who were killed during battle were also given eulogizes at the end of the video. It is unclear when these fighters were killed.

The Turkistan Islamic Party, commonly referred to as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), is an al Qaeda-linked Uighur jihadist group that operates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, China, and Syria. In Syria, it played a pivotal role in the capture of Idlib Province in 2015. It has also set up numerous training camps in Idlib for its fighters, as well as for children.

Outside of Syria, it has been blamed for several terrorist attacks within China. Additionally, in mid-2016, a suicide bombing occurred in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In its investigation, Kyrgyz authorities placed blame on the TIP’s Syrian branch. The investigation also shed light on a network of Syrian-trained Central Asian militants, which includes members of the TIP. The network appears to use Syria as a launching pad for external attacks.

Relations between the TIP and al Qaeda and the Taliban

TIP has served as an affiliate of al Qaeda and remains a close ally with the Taliban. TIP fighters have fought alongside the Taliban and other jihadist groups against Coalition and Afghan forces since the US first invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

TIP’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 TIP established training camps in Pakistan. [See Turkistan Islamic Party leader criticizes the Islamic State’s ‘illegitimate’ caliphate.]

The TIP has utilized Taliban camps to train their fighters based in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US military targeted one such camp, located in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, in a series of airstrikes that lasted four days in early Feb. Resolute Support said that the strikes prevented “the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the border with China and Tajikistan by such organizations as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIP) and others.”

The US has previously targeted TIP leaders inside Pakistan in its covert drone campaign which began in 2004. In Aug. 2010, the US thought it killed Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the emir of the TIP, 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 video 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 TIP as Turkistani was recovering from his injuries, and also siezed leadership of al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2010.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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