GERMAN FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN WARNED OF ATTACKS BY GERMAN ISLAMISTS
Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) announced on April 3 that “potentially threatened institutions in Afghanistan,” including bases of the German Bundeswehr, had been warned of possible terrorist attacks from two German citizens (DDP, April 4). The Germans are believed to have passed through Egypt, Dubai, Iran and Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan, making it difficult to monitor their progress.
Pictures of the two men, 20-year-old Nuenkirchen native and convert to Islam Eric B. (alias Abdul Rafar) and a native of Lebanon with German citizenship identified as Houssain al-M., were sent to Afghanistan, where they were circulated amongst German personnel and placed on public wanted posters. According to German security officials, the two are operating under direct orders from al-Qaeda and the Taliban (Der Spiegel, April 7). The suspects are believed to belong to the Islamist Jihad Union (IJU), a radical Uzbek organization that has taken roots in Germany (see Terrorism Monitor, November 8, 2007).
The two are also believed to be associates of the so-called Sauerland cell, which was broken up by German authorities while planning a major attack on a U.S. military base in Germany. The Sauerland cell included two native German converts to Islam, Daniel Schneider and Fritz Gelowicz, as well as an ethnic-Turkish German citizen, Adem Yilmaz. Another ethnic-Turkish German, Cuneyt Ciftci, a.k.a. Saad Ebu Furkan, died in a March 3 suicide bombing on a U.S. military post in Afghanistan’s Khost province that killed two U.S. soldiers and two civilians. Responsibility for the attack was claimed in a video by Jaluluddin Haqqani, the veteran jihadi and leader of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.
Like the members of the Sauerland cell, the latest suspects are believed to have received training from Taliban elements in the Waziristan region of Pakistan. Houssain al-M. was arrested in Waziristan by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) last year and deported to Germany (Der Spiegel, April 4). Another German from the state of Hesse, identified as Sadullah K., was killed in a U.S. airstrike on a training camp along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border last October (Spiegel Online, March 15).
The warnings come as Germany’s parliament is considering the future of Germany’s mission in Afghanistan. Germany’s ISAF contingent of 3,500 troops operates in the relatively quiet northern provinces of Afghanistan—Regional Command North, based in Mazar-i-Sharif—under a caveat that prevents them from participating in combat operations. The Taliban has promised to open a new front to engage these troops as part of its spring offensive; three German soldiers were injured in an attack on their tank on March 27 (Deutsche Welle, March 27). There are also plans to add 500 new counter-terrorism agents to the BKA, including doubling the size of the Mobile Task Force (Der Spiegel, April 7).
AHMADZAI WAZIR TRIBESMEN NEGOTIATE RETURN OF TALIBAN COMMANDERS
The Afghanistan Taliban are mediating ongoing negotiations for the return of Taliban commanders and Uzbek militants to the Wana region of South Waziristan after they were forcibly expelled last year by Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen under the command of rival Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir.
The negotiations will likely result in the return of the expelled Taliban commanders, but while Maulvi Nazir appears to have softened his stance towards the Uzbeks, their return remains strongly opposed by Ahmadzai tribal elders despite guarantees of their “good behavior” by the Afghan Taliban (Daily Times [Lahore], April 4). The Uzbeks have turned down offers to resettle in Taliban-controlled areas of Helmand and Zabul provinces, where they could be targeted by ISAF forces (Dawn [Karachi], April 5, 2007).
The Taliban commanders seeking to return—Ghulam Jan, Maulvi Abbas, Haji Muhammad Umar, Maulvi Javed Karmazkhel and Noor Islam—were all commanders under Nek Muhammad, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2004. They were well known for harboring the Uzbek militants whose predilection for violent activities—including contract assassinations—created major rifts with the tribesmen who had initially offered them refuge after being driven out of Afghanistan in late 2001. The Utmanzai Wazirs of North Waziristan have joined the Ahmadzai in their attempts to expel the Uzbeks from the region (The News [Islamabad], April 5). The Uzbeks are hardened veteran fighters who cannot easily be eliminated by any one party. They are mostly veteran members of Tahir Yuldash’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), though rival leaders have emerged during their long exile from Uzbekistan.
As part of a peace agreement with the Pakistan government in early 2005, Maulvi Abbas, Haji Muhammad Umar and Maulvi Javed Karmazkhel were issued massive cash payments from the secret service fund to repay money they claimed al-Qaeda had advanced to finance attacks on Pakistani security forces (Dawn, February 8, 2005). Noor Islam is a Wana-based Taliban commander closely associated with Uzbek and Arab elements while Ghulam Jan is a strong opponent of Maulvi Nazir (Daily Times, January 9, 2007). Haji Muhammad Umar and Noor Islam belong to the powerful Yargulkhel sub-tribe of the Ahmadzai; Maulvi Nazir is from the much weaker Ghulamkhel sub-tribe but wields considerable influence in the area due to his skills as a fighter.
At a meeting two weeks ago between Maulvi Nazir and his local rival, Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Baitullah Mehsud, the latter told Nazir that he would not expel the Uzbek militants from the region as he had been asked to harbor them by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and the day-to-day commander of the Haqqani network (The News, April 5). Due to tribal animosities, the Ahmadzai and Mehsud have maintained separate Taliban commands (see Terrorism Monitor, February 7).