Jund al-Khilafah (JaK), a Kazakh-led terrorist group based in Pakistan, issued its second statement on the Ansar al-Mujahideen online forum on April 1 claiming affiliation to Mohammed Merah. JaK’s first statement was released on March 22.
On the day after Mohammed Merah was killed in Toulouse on March 22 JaK issued the following the statement (excerpted):
“On Tuesday, March 19, one of the Islamic knights, brother ‘Yousef al-Faransi’ – we ask Allah to accept him – took off in an operation that shook the pillars of the Zionist- Crusade in the entire world and filled the hearts of Allah’s enemies with terror…. We hereby claim responsibility for these blessed operations, and we say that what Israel is committing of crimes against our people on the blessed land of Palestine, and in Gaza specifically, will not pass without punishment. The Mujahideen everywhere intend on avenging every drop of blood that was unjustly and aggressively shed in Palestine, Afghanistan and other Muslim homelands.”
One week later, on April 1, JaK showed deeper knowledge about Merah in a second statement (excerpted):
“And since I got to know the brother closely and sat with him in many occasions, and for a short period I was one of his mentors, I see that it is my duty to defend the honor of the brother…and seek to remove the fiction from the truth of what was going on in his mind, and the motives that pushed him to carry out the operations in France…. From Egypt to Ash-Sham, and from there to Palestine…. where he visited Jerusalem and prayed there, and thereafter to Kurdistan, Iraq, and then to Tajikistan, where he was able to get a visa to Afghanistan, and entered and searched for who would help him join the Taliban…. From Afghanistan he returned to France when he prepared a visa to Pakistan with the excuse of trade and went there. Allah graced him this time, as in Islamabad he met people who took him to the Taliban, who in turn facilitated his arrival in the tribal regions, when he ended up joining our brigade…. Brother, Yusef is not a reckless man as the media in the Western countries wants to view him. He was a serious young man…who was intelligent and mastered the use of a Linux computer and an Apple Mac in his possession and prepped it with many software programs for film production because he was fond of photography and always carried a Panasonic Full HD 14.2 Megapixels camera.
Neither of these statements has gathered much attention in the mainstream media probably because most analysts see JaK’s claims as false, but the claims were good enough for the administrators of Ansar al-Mujahideen online forum to post them. One of the major surprises about JaK claiming an attack in France is that in 2011 all of JaK’s attacks were carried out in Kazakhstan and all of JaK’s statements were directed against the Kazakh government.
Yet, one reason to believe that JaK’s claims are legitimate is its track record. In 2011, the three claims JaK made about three attacks in Atyrau, Taraz, and Boraldai (a village outside of Almaty) were consistent with the facts on the ground and were released within three to four days of the attacks, so they showed some degree of inside information.
For instance, on October 31, 2011 in Atyrau, a terrorist blew himself up next to an apartment building near the Prosecutor-General’s office and another bomb detonated in a garbage can blocks away. A claim of credit by JaK following the attack showed inside knowledge, especially since the statement was released the day after the explosions, which would not have given JaK much time to see the media’s depiction of the event. JaK said:
“We refute that the last attack was carried out as a martyrdom-operation. It seems that the bomb exploded accidently, which led to the martyrdom of its carrier. We ask Allah to accept him among the martyrs.”
A similar claim with a degree of inside knowledge was released three days after Maksat Kariyev went on a several hour noontime rampage in November 2011 in Taraz, Southeastern Kazakhstan killing five security officers, one gun shop guard, and himself in a suicide bombing that he detonated when a police commander approached him. JaK claimed responsibility and said:
“In Taraz, you saw with your own eyes what one soldier did to you, and God willing you will see horrors by the hands of men who don’t fear death and give their souls easily to support the religion of Islam and defend the honor of the Muslims.”
In Boraldai Village outside of Alamaty, five JaK fighters were killed on December 3, 2011 when Kazakhstan security forces surrounded them inside their safehouse. Four days later Jak came out with a claim that said:
“We are ready to be killed in the thousands in order to support [Islam]… losing our lives is a cheap price that we pay for this cause… God give glory to the fighters who were killed by the apostate forces of the Nazarbayev regime at a base where the five lions of the al-Zahir Baybars Battalion of Jund al Khilafa were gathered.”
Sure, JaK may be bluffing about Mohammed Merah. But what may have happened is that Merah passed through a JaK training camp in Pakistan’s tribal areas with the approval or guidance of the Taliban or al-Qaeda. This is not such a far stretch considering that the IMU, JaK, TIP, and other Central Asian groups all have camps supported by the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. To Merah, JaK could have been a typical al-Qaeda outfit, but to JaK Merah could have been perceived as one of theirs— hence the claims.