Central Asia’s Terrorist Groups Joined to the Jihad Against the US After Jerusalem Declared

Terrorist groups from Central Asia reacted strongly to the statement by the US President Donald Trump on the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Uzbek, Uighur, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Kazakh jihadists, who are fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan, issued several statements with threats against the United States. Their statements appeared almost in unison with the statements by the world terrorist groups of al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban, who are their ideological inspiration and direct patrons.

In their statements, Central Asian militants have repeated the idea of the need to protect the Muslim sanctuary of Jerusalem from the “Jews and Crusaders”, which had previously been stated in the statements of al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. Thus, following the global jihadist groups, their affiliated subsidiaries from Central Asia have tried to portray themselves as defenders of the Islamic values.

Thus, in particular, the leader of the Uzbek group Katibat al-Imam Bukhari Abu Yusuf Muhojir has posted on his Telegram page a call on the protection of the Palestinians and on jihad against godless regimes of Western countries. He has cited the words of one of the ideologists of the Salafi movement, Abdul Aziz at Tarifi, who said that “the doors of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the mosque is located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem and is considered one of the three holy places of Islam after Kaaba in Mecca and Prophet’s Mosque in Medina) can only be opened by jihad. Those who are looking for the keys to the doors will never open it since it is only war that can break through the blockade of Israel and get inside the mosque.” It should be noted that Abu Yusuf Muhojir was elected leader of the Katibat al-Imam Bukhari group after the assassination of the previous leader Sheikh Salahuddin in April 2017. The leader of the Uzbek militants calls on the Muslims of Central Asia to join the jihad as it is the only way to resist the aggression of the US and its Zionist allies.

Another terrorist group from Central Asia, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, also has called upon the Muslims of the world to release the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem from the Jewish occupation. The leader of the group, Abu Saloh, via the Telegram channel has distributed videos and photographs about the “suppressed Palestinian nation, which must be supported by jihad.”

Telegram also contains statements by other branches of al Qaeda, including the affiliated Uighur militants of the Turkestan Islamic Party from China and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham about the support of Palestinian Muslims. Both groups today are fighting in close alliance in Idlib province against the regime of Bashar Assad. The jihadists believe that the true face of America has now been revealed, and Trump has ignored the feelings of millions of Muslims. The Uighur jihadists believe that the Muslim world sheds tears because of the Al-Quds Al-Sharif problem (as the Islamic world calls Jerusalem), since this problem affects the honor and dignity of every Muslim. The terrorists have suggested that Al-Quds Al-Sharif must be returned by force to the Palestinians, as the United States has buried the illusions and visions of peace. In the end, they have called the entire Muslim world to jihad against the Jews and their transatlantic ally.

Also, a media moderator of the Kyrgyz militants in Syria named Hamza Shami has distributed a video editing on the Telegram, where the decree of US President Trump on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel burns down directly in his hands. There are also photos of Palestinian clashes with Israeli police, which are accompanied by a slogan in the Kyrgyz language: “Palestine, we are with you!”

From this short analysis it can be understood that terrorist groups from Central Asia have taken up an acute anti-American position and are trying to portray themselves as defenders of Islam. Therefore, militant leaders have willingly expressed their positions on the status of Jerusalem, thus trying to use the discontent of local Muslims in their favor. The social media of Central Asian Islamists are full of appeals to join Jihad and protect Al-Quds. The Palestinian theme has become the reason to appeal to like-minded people in Central Asia and to fill their ranks with new members.

As for the ideological doctrine of these statements, it should be noted that they have become an integral part of the al Qaeda and ISIS jihadist platform. It is a reminder that both groups have immediately expressed their reaction to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In particular, al Qaeda terrorists have called on their supporters to attack the US and its allies. In their statement, the members of al Qaeda have called America “a new pharaoh suppressing the Muslims.” The jihad theme has also been raised in the ISIS statement. The militants of the so-called Islamic State have threatened the US with terrorist attacks. “We will conduct even more operations in your country until the last hour, and we will burn you down with the fire of war that you have started in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan,” the ISIS militants emphasized. Also, the Taliban in their statement called on Muslims around the world to support the suppressed Palestinian nation with jihad.

The Palestinian problem has clearly revealed that terrorist groups from Central Asia have successfully assimilated into the world jihadist movement. Statements by Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari and the Turkestan Islamic Party have shown that they have become a part of the global jihad movement, and pose great threats to the security of the United States and Western countries.

Thus, Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been the catalyst to the development of the following trends.

First, this move by the White House has consolidated various terrorist groups in the Middle East and Central Asia, which previously competed for leadership in the global jihadist movement. Today, al Qaeda and ISIS, and their affiliates in various regions of the world, have simultaneously declared jihad to the United States and Israel, which could expand the geography of the conflict around Jerusalem.

Secondly, jihadist groups are trying to use the Palestinian problem to build the capacity and increase the number of their supporters. They challenge the governments of Islamic states and offer their alternative to the solution of the Palestinian conflict through jihad, which appeals to the radical Muslims. The resolution of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to recognize Palestine as a state with its capital in East Jerusalem is not only a response of the governments of Muslim countries to the US and Israel, but also an attempt to keep the initiative in their hands, which terrorist organizations seek.

Third, the declaration of jihad by the Salafi-jihadist terrorist groups, including Islamists from Central Asia, increases the risk of terrorist attacks against American missions, military personnel and citizens not only abroad, but also within the country. Therefore, intelligence agencies of the US and Western countries should more closely monitor the actions of both Central Asia’s “lone wolves” in social media, and al Qaeda and ISIS in general.

In conclusion, due to the high sensitivity and sacredness of the Jerusalem problem, which is a holy city for Christians, Muslims and Jews, the leaders of Islamic countries and the West should avoid the steps that could lead the Salafi-jihadist terrorist groups to the forefront of the conflict.

Uran Botobekov
Uran Botobekov
Doctor of Political Science (PhD), expert on Political Islam. Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Member. SpecialEurasia, Team Member.