Pak’s LeT, JeM have hundreds of fighters, 11 camps in Afghanistan: UN report

Updated on May 29, 2022 05:46 PM IST

The UN report said Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) maintains eight training camps in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, three of them directly under Taliban control

The UN report said al-Qaeda has used the Taliban’s takeover to “attract new recruits and funding” and al-Qaeda affiliates worldwide. (AP)
The UN report said al-Qaeda has used the Taliban’s takeover to “attract new recruits and funding” and al-Qaeda affiliates worldwide. (AP)
ByRezaul H Lashkar

NEW DELHI: Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) still have hundreds of fighters in Afghanistan and both groups maintain at least 11 terrorist training camps in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, according to a new UN report.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), blamed for a string of attacks in northwest Pakistan in recent months, accounts for the largest component of foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, with their number estimated at “several thousand”, said the latest report from the team monitoring the UN Security Council’s sanctions on the Taliban.

This is the first report by the monitoring team, which assists the UN Security Council’s 1988 Sanctions Committee, since the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August last year.

Though JeM and LeT are estimated to have a few hundred fighters each in Afghanistan, JeM maintains eight training camps in Nangarhar province, three of them directly under Taliban control, according to the report. There were no details on the location of these camps or the number of fighters in each of them.

LeT, which was formed in Afghanistan in 1990, has three training camps in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, and the group has maintained its close ties with the Afghan Taliban leadership. LeT leader Mawlawi Assadullah met the Taliban’s deputy interior minister Noor Jalil in October 2021, the report said.

A Taliban delegation visited a training camp used by LeT in Haska Mena district of Nangarhar province in January this year.

Within Afghanistan, LeT is led by Mawlawi Yousuf. Past LeT members have included Aslam Farooqi and Ejaz Ahmad Ahangar alias Abu Usman al-Kashmiri, both of whom joined the Khorasan chapter of the Islamic State.

Farooqi was blamed for the March 2020 attack on a Sikh place of worship in Kabul that killed more than 25 people. Farooqi was subsequently captured by Afghan special forces but escaped from prison during the Taliban takeover of Kabul last year. Some reports have suggested he was killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan in January.

The report said JeM, a Deobandi group led by Masood Azhar, is “ideologically closer to the Taliban”. Qari Ramazan is the newly appointed head of the group in Afghanistan. JeM was formed in early 2000 by Azhar after he was freed along with two more terrorists in exchange for passengers on an Indian Airlines flight hijacked by Pakistani terrorists from Kathmandu to Kandahar.

Despite the Taliban setup’s claims of not allowing Afghan soil to be used by foreign fighters, the UN report said several other foreign terrorist groups were still active in Afghanistan, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Jamaat Ansarullah. Each of these groups has a few hundred fighters in the war-torn country.

According to previous reports from the monitoring team, both JeM and LeT have facilitated the trafficking of terrorist fighters into Afghanistan, and they have acted as advisers, trainers and specialists in improvised explosive devices. The monitoring team has said both groups were also responsible for targeted assassinations against government officials and others.

In the past, JeM and LeT fighters were co-located with Taliban forces in Mohmand Darah, Dur Baba and Sherzad districts of Nangarhar province. Both groups also had their fighters dispersed within Taliban forces in Kunar province.

The new reports said al-Qaeda has used the Taliban’s takeover to “attract new recruits and funding” and al-Qaeda affiliates worldwide. “Previously, while the group was obliged to seek new safe havens, it was believed to have a continued presence in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan is viewed as a friendly environment for continued occupancy,” the report added.

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