European jihadis flock to Pakistan for training

Founded in 2002 in Pakistan`s tribal areas, the IJU has recruited hundreds of Europeans.

Updated: Aug 04, 2010, 09:05 AM IST

Peshawar: It was never easy for Hamza to live a double life, especially at home in Germany surrounded by loving parents and three siblings. But he managed quite well.

For months, his parents had no idea he was secretly collecting money and equipment for his journey to a militant training camp in Pakistan.

In summer 2009, Hamza - a 21-year-old German of Turkish origin - told his family he was going to visit relatives in Turkey.

But he was in Turkey only for three days before travelling to Pakistan via Iran, hiring human traffickers when needed, to join his comrades for jihad against infidel forces waging war against "innocent" Muslims in Afghanistan.

After months at various training facilities in Pakistan`s lawless tribal district of North Waziristan, and taking part in raids on NATO troops in Afghanistan, Hamza is ready for a bigger task.

"Praise to God, I will give my life to accomplish the task my elders assign to me, whether it is in Afghanistan or any part of the world," he said. Hamza spoke on the condition that his exact location in the tribal district and real name were kept secret.

Wearing dark brown, traditional Pakistani clothing and holding an AK-47 assault rifle, Hamza still has a baby-face.

However, behind that face is a heart hardened by the propaganda of Ittehad-e-Jihad Islami (Islamic Jihad Union) - a militant group founded by Turkish-speaking Uzbeks that is influential among hardline Turkish Muslims and those of Turkish origin in Germany.

Founded in 2002 in Pakistan`s tribal areas, the IJU, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has recruited hundreds of Europeans.

The IJU claims to have more than 500 foreign fighters, including over 60 native Germans who converted to Islam, as well as Turkish fighters of German origin, and dozens of motivated suicide bombers.

The organisation made Mir Ali, a small town in North Waziristan, its headquarters and set up dozens of training centres in the mountainous region.

"Some of the facilities are so far off, they don`t have road access," an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. "You can only travel some distance by vehicle on a muddy trek, and then you can go further only on foot or a horse."

The group was allegedly behind a botched 2007 attack against the Frankfurt international airport and US military installations at Ramstein air base.

IJU, which has close links with al Qaeda, is believed responsible for a series of bombings in July 2004 against the US and Israeli embassies in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

It also claimed responsibility for a 2008 suicide attack in the Afghan province of Khost carried out by Cuneyit Ciftci from Bavaria, western Germany.

The IJU established a separate wing in 2009 to target young European Muslims, disgruntled by increasing discrimination based on race and religion, said a Pakistani intelligence official.

The new group was named Taifatul Mansura and later set up a branch for the dozens of German fighters - the German Taliban Mujahidin.

Other Pakistani militant groups have also attracted Muslims living in European urban centres. At least some of the suicide bombers in the 2005 London attacks had connections with Pakistan-based groups, as had Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber.

Pakistani troops fighting Islamist insurgents have spared the IJU, mainly because of Islamabad`s policy of hitting only those militants who attack inside the country, and not those who target international troops across the border in Afghanistan.

But US unmanned aircraft have no such limits. Drones have inflicted heavy losses on the militants in the last couple of years.

A drone attack in May killed Eric Breininger, alias Abdul Gaffar el-Almani, the head of the Taifatul Mansura and the German Taliban Mujahidin.

He was succeeded by Atwal Abdur Rehman, a German-born Turk aged between 25-30 years said to have come to the region only in 2009.

With typical Asian figures, Rehman is hard to distinguish from the local population, but many in North Waziristan are uncomfortable with what they consider an "invasion of the foreigners".

"They are swarming our place," said a tribal elder who identified himself only as Bashir. "We gave them shelter because we thought they were fighting infidels but now they are dictating what to do in our own land.

"They set up check posts on the main roads and then ask us about our identity. Who are they to ask us such questions?" Bashir said.

But newly arrived German Hamza has little concern for those "little things".

"We are here to defeat the Western crusade forces in Afghanistan and nothing will stop us, if Allah wills."

IANS/DPA