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Exposing Al Qaeda affiliated Katibat wal Tawhid al Jihad

Al Qaeda, Jannat Oshiklari, ISIL, Da'esh, ISIS, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Chinese Embassy, US sanctions

Counterterrorism

Exposing Al Qaeda affiliated Katibat wal Tawhid al Jihad

On March 7, 2022, the US Department of State as part of its commitment to addressing terrorist activities in ungoverned spaces in Syria through the judicious use of counterterrorism tools and constructive engagement with its partners has designated Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ). It may be mentioned here that, KTJ was formerly known as Jannat Oshiklari.

In its statement, the US Department of State said, “Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order 13224, as amended. In addition to this SDGT designation, KTJ has also been added to the UNSC 1267/1989/2253/2610 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List, requiring all UN member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against KTJ”.

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Affiliated with al-Qa’ida, KTJ operates primarily in Idlib Province, Syria alongside Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and cooperates with other designated terrorist groups such as Katibat al-Imam al-Bukhari and Islamic Jihad Group. In addition to engaging in terrorist activities in Syria, KTJ has also been responsible for conducting external attacks, such as the Saint Petersburg metro attack in April 2017 which killed 14 passengers and injured 50 others, as well as a suicide car bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in August 2016 which wounded three people.

As a result of the SDGT designation, all property and interests in property of KTJ that are subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with it. Foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate any significant transaction on behalf of KTJ could also be subject to US sanctions.

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Designations of terrorist individuals and groups expose and isolate them and deny them access to the resources they need to carry out attacks. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement actions of other US agencies and governments.

According to a press release issued by the United Nations, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (Катиба ат-Таухид валь-Джихад), formerly known as Jannat Oshiklari or Jama`at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad is a terrorist organization operating under the umbrella of the international terrorist organization Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant. The group mainly operates in the provinces of Hama, Idlib and Ladhiqiyah, in the Syrian Arab Republic, and also conduct operations in Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.  The number of fighters of KTJ is about 500.  KTJ also cooperates with such terrorist organizations as Khatiba Imam al-Bukhari and the Islamic Jihad Group (one of Palestinian jihadist entities).

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In accordance with paragraph 55 of resolution 2368 (2017), the Committee has made accessible on its website the narrative summaries of reasons for listing of the above entry at this URL.

Information on this terrorist group is also available on the Interpol-UN Security Council Special Notice web.

The Islamic State (Da’esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions List is updated regularly by the UN on the basis of relevant information provided by Member States and international and regional organizations. An updated list is accessible on ISIS (Da’esh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee’s website.

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Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad is a Salafi-jihadi group active in Gaza since 2008, inspired by al-Qaeda. The group is believed to be behind the abduction and killing of Italian peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni in 2011 along with repeated rocket fire and IED attacks against Israeli forces. It is thought to have close ties with the Sinai-based Islamic State-affiliate Ansar Bait al-Maqdis. Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad was founded by Hisham Ali Saidani who fought with al-Qaeda in Iraq following the US-led invasion. Saidani was killed in October 2013 by an Israeli missile strike in the Jabaliyya refugee camp.

Other jihadist and terrorist groups in ‘Palestine’:

Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades

The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB) was founded in 1991 as the military wing of Hamas. It is the largest and best-equipped group operating in Gaza and has fought several wars against Israel. In recent years, it has significantly enhanced its missile and rocket capacity, and has experimented with drones and underwater commandos — with limited success. IQB also has its own internal security force (al-Majd).

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IQB has claimed responsibility for many attacks against Israeli civilians, including suicide bombings. IQB is led by Mohammed Deif. Its deputy is Marwan Issa.

Al-Quds Brigades

The al-Quds Brigades (AQB) were founded in 1992 as the armed wing of Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Following Israel’s assassination of the organization’s secretary general Fathi al-Shikaki in 1995, AQB carried out attacks against Israeli civilians jointly with Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB.) It is the second-largest armed group in Gaza after IQB.

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Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) emerged during the Second Intifada as a loose network of military groups associated with Fatah, largely initiated by activists from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. Although it was never officially recognized or openly backed by Fatah, many Fatah leaders have maintained an ambiguous relationship with the AMB.

In April 2016, Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces clashed with AMB members after reportedly attempting to arrest a murder suspect in the Old City of Nablus. A few months later, in August, PA security forces arrested Ahmad Izzat Halawa, a local AMB leader, over alleged involvement in the killing of two PA officers during clashes earlier that month. Halawa was reportedly beaten to death while in detention, provoking local protests.

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The AMB claims to be a continuity of “The Storm” (al-Asifah) and “Fatah Hawks” (Suqoor Fatah), armed Fatah groups which were absorbed into the PA’s security forces. However, many of its members were young activists who were part of the Tanzim, a grassroots organization of Fatah activists that was led by Marwan Barghouti, who Israel claims also led the AMB.

During the Second Intifada, the AMB carried out numerous armed operations. The group initially targeted Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza but shifted in 2002 to suicide attacks on civilians inside Israel.

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Most of the AMB’s original leaders have since been captured or killed by Israel. In 2010, the remaining activists reached a deal with Israel through the PA to be removed from Israel’s wanted list in return for renouncing violence and surrendering their weapons to the PA. Many of these activists were also absorbed into the PA security forces; others kept their weapons and were targeted by the PA. Others went on to form a variety of splinter groups, such as: the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Nidal al-Amoudi, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Jaish al-Asifah, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Ayman Jawda, and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) — all of which are active in Gaza.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Nidal al-Amoudi

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Nidal al-Amoudi (AMB-NA) is a Palestinian armed group operating in Gaza. As its name suggests, it is a splinter group formed by members from the Fatah-aligned al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) who refused lay down their arms or integrate the Palestinian Authority’s security forces following the end of the Second Intifada.

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Popular Resistance Committees

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) is a loose grouping of armed factions in Gaza. The PRC’s armed wing are the al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, although in practice there appears to be no real distinction between the two. The PRC is currently led by Abu Yasser Shashnyeh.

The PRC form the third largest armed group in Gaza, after Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (IQB) and Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades (AQB). They are strong allies of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and have contributed personnel to the Gaza police force. Hamas reportedly put the group’s former leader, Jamal Abu Samhadana, in charge of its  paramilitary Executive Force after winning the 2006 elections.

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The PRC is inspired by Islamist ideology. But while the group does not participate in the politics of the PA or the PLO, and advocates armed resistance, it does back the creation of a Palestinian state based on the pre-June 1967 borders. Israel accuses Iran of supporting and funding the PRC.

During the Second Intifada, the PRC coalesced around members of Fatah in the southern Gaza Strip opposed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Oslo Accords. The Economist’s former Palestine correspondent Graham Usher reported that “​the bulk of fighters were from the tanzim, including officers in the PA’s intelligence and police forces”. Its al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades were reportedly formed by members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) in Gaza. In April 2001, Yasser Arafat reportedly ordered the PRC to be dissolved and its fighters returned to their original security institutions. However, PRC leaders refused to comply. The PRC is thought to now also include former members of the PFLP.

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The PRC has participated in joint military operations with IQB, including the capture and holding of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. They are thought to be behind a minority of the rocket fire from Gaza witnessed in early 2017, as well as the 17 February 2017 IED attack on IDF soldiers on the Gaza border. In September 2005, they claimed responsibility for the killing of Moussa Arafat (Yasser Arafat’s cousin and former head of the Palestinian security services) in Gaza claiming: “we have executed the will of God and the rule of law because he killed people, ordered assaults on fighters and he had a big file of corruption.” The PRC is also linked to the killing of 3 US diplomats in Gaza in October 2003.

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades

The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades are the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They function in both the West Bank and Gaza.

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It carried out car bomb attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli targets (including civilians) in Jerusalem and the West Bank during the Second Intifada. One of their notable operations was the assassination of Israeli minister of agriculture Rehavam Ze’evi in October 2001. This came after Israel assassinated the PFLP’s then-secretary general Abu Ali Mustafa.

National Resistance Brigades

The National Resistance Brigades are the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and operate in Gaza.

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Harakat al-Sabireen

Harakat al-Sabireen was founded in 2014 by Hisham Salim and other former members of Islamic Jihad. Although founded in Gaza, it also operates in the West Bank. The movement is reported to have strong and direct ties to Iran.

In January 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on the movement as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), accusing it of having “planned and executed terrorist attacks include firing rockets into Israel in September 2015 and detonating an explosive device targeting an Israeli army patrol in December 2015”.

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Salafi Jihadist

A small number of different Salafi-jihadi groups formed following Hamas’s seizure of the Gaza strip in 2007. Some of these groups were formed by disgruntled Hamas members who had grown increasingly critical of what they saw as softening of positions towards Israel. Other groups were formed by clans as way a of gaining political legitimacy.

Salafi-jihadi groups have only a marginal presence and are held in a choke-hold by Hamas. Nevertheless, Israeli-imposed closures on the Strip and consecutive military offensives have radicalized them and helped create a fertile recruiting ground in Gaza. Although responsible for occasional rocket fire against Israel in defiance of the ceasefire between Palestinian armed groups and Israel, these groups have more often attacked Hamas, including through the use of suicide bombings and assassinations.

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The four main active groups in Gaza are: Jaysh al-Islam, Jaysh al-Umma, Jund Ansar Allah. and al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. These groups are known to cooperate with Egyptian Salafi-Jihadi groups active in the Sinai.

Lebanon’s refugee camps have, meanwhile, seen the growth of Salafi-jihadist factions, most prominently Fatah al-Islam, which regularly clash with other Palestinian groups such as Fatah.

Terrorists under the garb of students

Hundreds of ‘Palestinian’ student study in a number of countries in the world. But authorities in the host countries are not aware of the fact that majority of these Palestinians are affiliated with terrorist and jihadist groups and play important role in inspiring people in the host nations to travel to Palestine and join jihad against Israel.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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