China in Al Qaida’s sights again?

2011-05-11 (China Military News cited from indiatimes.com) — A few weeks before the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida appointed a new commander of its Pakistan forces and training camps — Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, current chief of the Turkistan Islamic Party, which is committed to ending China’s rule in Uighur-dominated Xinjiang province. It shows the extent to which the terror group’s associate outfits have joined al-Qaida central, making distinctions between them difficult.

According to a publication, Karachi Islam, which tracks Taliban and jihadi movements and is a front for the banned Al Rashid Trust, Shakoor was appointed in April after Saif al-Adel, al-Qaida’s top military strategist and planner, left Pakistan after US drone attacks became more precise. Saif, who goes by different noms de guerre, is tipped to be in the running for the al-Qaida chief’s post after Osama.

The Long War Journal, which closely tracks terrorism in Asia, also reported, quoting the journal Karachi Islam, “In addition to leading al-Qaida’s network in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Abdul Shakoor is now supervising training camps” where Punjab Taliban and European Taliban cadres “are being given preference for carrying out attacks in the West and the US”.

The Turkistan Islamic Party (distinct from the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement) was created in 2008, with a promise to carry out jihadi activities against China in Xinjiang. But there has been little activity inside China and more inside Pakistan’s FATA tribal areas, where its training camps are located. China takes a tough approach to Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Saif is believed to be the chief of al-Qaida’s military council, and was living in Iran since 2001. However, in 2010, he reportedly moved to Pakistan because that has become the hub of jihadi activity.

In fact, Shakoor’s predecessor in the TIP, Abdul Haq al-Turkistani, was part of al-Qaida’s executive council until he was killed by a US drone in January 2011. Terrorism analysts said it showed that one of the more distinctive features of the present al-Qaida was the role affiliate terror groups increasingly played in their central decision-making. Some of this has been due to the increased military action against terror groups in Pakistan. This has forced groups to pool their resources, training facilities and share operational intelligence.

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