``Your brothers and colleagues for many years are busy with preparing themselves for Jihad (Holy War) in this area both monetarily and morally. We have achieved this task by opening training camps, Islamic education camps, and the preparation of necessary weapons and for this Holy purpose. After the people realize the area needs protection and the preservation of Islam, we must make a tough and holy stand against the blasphemous secularist political, social and cultural institutions. They are seeking to conquer and exploit the Muslims of Kurdistan, thus the dirty Jews and Christians seek the destruction of Islam in Kurdistan.”
-- Jund Al Islam Newsletter, September 1, 2001
There are ominous signs that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network is targeting Iraqi Kurdistan to be infiltrated and use it as another base for operation for his terrorist organization Al Qaeda (The Base), which is a conglomerate of quasi-independent Islamic zealots. A group, under the name of Jund Al Islam (Soldiers of Islam), of bin Laden mercenaries has appeared in recent months under the command of a self-styled Amir of Islam by the name of Abu Abdullah Al Shafi’i who is an Afghan Arab, rumored to be of Egyptian or Syrian origin. The modus operandi of the group and their destructive doctrines they preach, plus being flush with funds and weapons, have all the hallmarks of a bin Laden operation. Analysts in Kurdistan are convinced that the group’s real agenda is to destabilize the Kurdistan region through terror and coercion in order to undermine the regional authorities and the standing of the secular parties as well as that of the mainstream Islamic organizations. Furthermore, they are convinced the group is playing the role of fifth column on behalf of the Baghdad regime in its disruptive activities.
What is Jund Al Islam?
The group consists of 400-500 armed followers led by Al Shafi’i and a core of Afghan Arabs who handle terrorist training, finance and militant propaganda behind the scene. The Afghani Arabs’ mission is to hire, train and control motivated Islamic mercenaries and teach them the terrorist craft learnt from Usama bin Laden’s camps in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Most of the followers have been recruited from the ranks of the other Islamic groups such as the Kurdophobic Muslim Brotherhood and the Kurdistan Islamic Movement based in Halabja and led by Sheikh Ali Abdul Aziz. The group is organized on cell basis who are divided into six military Katibas (Regiments). The headquarters are in Biyara, Hawraman area near Halabja.
The leadership of Jund Al Islam consists of: Mulla Zana, Mulla Abdulla Khalifan, Amir Abu Bakir, Omar Baziani, Mulla Mohammad Rashid and Hawleri Ayoub Afghani. Their arsenal of weaponry includes:
3-4 Russian-made Katyusha rockets (surface to surface missile); four 106-shell artillery, anti tank/aircraft guns; sniper rifles and BKC machine guns and mortars. They use a fleet of slick Toyota Land Cruisers for their transportation. It is reported that the group has received $600,000 from bin Laden network recently to finance their terror campaign.
Agenda and Slogans: " Ten Minutes to Heaven"
Jund Al Islam professes a strain of Sunni Islam similar to the Wahhabi Islam (pertaining to Mohammad Abdul Wahhab of Saudi Arabia). Their message is a mish-mash of medievalist and xenophobic precepts advocating a pure and ncompromising form of Islamic state and a permanent ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the infidels and all manifestations of religious and social freedoms. Like all religious fanatics and charlatans the group promises their members instant ascension to heaven in case they are ‘martyred” in course of performing their assigned duties. In a recent Friday Khutba (Sermon) their leader Al Shafi’i stated that, “Those young men who are martyred at the hands of the infidels and enemies of Islam, shall be taken up to the gates of Heaven by two angels sent down by Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, within ten minutes of their martyrdom and defense of Islam." However these disturbing teaching are alien to Kurdistan society, the group is trying the centuries-old tactics of using Islamic cover to smother the natural national and cultural attributes of diversity and tolerance in Kurdistan. As the open preaching of chauvinistic Arab nationalistic goals is not an easily accepted in Kurdistan, the best alternative is to camouflage it under the banner of ‘holy Islam’. It is an easier sell.
In the short period June Al Islam has been operating, it has been frantically engaging in sabotage and criminal activities. It has openly declared that it is planning to defy, challenge and paralyze the two major political parties, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party, as well as the mainstream Islamic organizations. It does not recognize the legitimacy and jurisdiction of the Kurdistan regional administration, nor the authority of PESHMERGA forces. Following are some of the policies it wants to impose by force on the people of Kurdistan:
In February this year members of the group assassinated in Hawler (Arbil) Faranso Hariri, a high ranking leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party. The group has been sabotaging the field work of the United Nations Agencies to rehabilitate and develop Kurdistan. Its members were responsible for damaging power transmission lines and demolishing power pylons for extending electricity to the villages. The Jund Al Islam detained a well-known Kurdish singer, Arjumand Howrami, during his visit to his family to Howraman, early September. It is feared that the group might have executed him on the charge of being a blasphemer against Islam. In August, the group’s militia desecrated the revered shrine of a Kurdish Islamic figure, Sheik Osman Biyara, on the pretext that making a pilgrimage to such site is an act of polytheism. The group also has been trying to terrorize the Kakayee Sufi community into abandoning their centuries-old religious and cultural traditions.
Furthermore, the group’s vigilantes have been harassing women in their area to conform to their edicts. In May this year the group murdered a Kurdistan writer who authored a scholarly and dispassionate book under the title, "Mirov U Quran" (Humans and Quran) in Kurdish.
Warning and Challenge
The emergence of the June al Islam and their destructive behavior poses a real challenge to the Kurdistan region and the major political parties and the regional administration. So far they have not responded vigorously to the dangerous threat posed by this alien group and philosophy to the body politic of Kurdistan society. There have been some close consultations among the major political parties, namely Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party. ( Ref. Kurdistan Newsline Sept. 10) But analysts who have been watching the growth of the group are greatly alarmed by the situation and they feel that if the group is not dealt with now and is allowed to expand unhindered, it will develop into a major threat to the future of Kurdistan region. They are urging a concerted effort to agree on a strategy to deal with this threat and implement it expeditiously. A campaign to expose the evil nature of the group’s agenda and behavior is a top priority. The peaceful and mainstream Islamic elements are called upon to step up in the mosques and other public forums to denounce the group and give the lie to the fanatics’ perversion of Islamic faith.
Open and specific refutation of the group’s preaching of extremism and intolerance would begin to plant the seeds of doubt in the misled minds of some within their ranks. At the same time PUK and KDP must not be squeamish in dealing with this threat. They should mobilize the PESHMERGA forces to disarm the group once and for all.
The Afghan Arabs should be apprehended and deported from the region. As we have seen during recent tragic events in
America bin Laden groups are lethal in their approach and unless checked they cause real carnage whenever given an opportunity.