Maulana Asim Umar, from a video by As Sahab. His face is intentionally blotted. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, has released a video featuring Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Maulana Asim Umar, who calls on Indian Muslims to participate in the “global jihad to give a final push to the collapsing edifice of America.”
The video, titled “Why is There No Storm in Your Ocean?,” was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. It was produced in May, but posted on jihadist forums on July 23.
Asim Umar tells the Muslims of India that the “jihad does not limit itself to any specific region.” Instead, “lives are being sacrificed in this jihad to defeat America and its allies everywhere.”
Syria, in particular, is featured prominently in Asim Umar’s call to arms. The Pakistani Taliban propagandist claims that the Caliphate “is about to be established once more in this world” and the “biggest obstacle in the establishment of this system — i.e. America — is licking its wounds in Afghanistan.”
“After Iraq,” Asim Umar continues, “the black flags of Khorasan are heading for Syria,” which is “the land of Prophets” and the “land of blessings and victory.” The Mujahideen “with black flags have established their bases for the establishment of the Caliphate” in Syria after Allah “endowed this jihad with such blessings that in a short span of time the Mujahideen have reached a stage where they are on the verge of liberating the Sunnis from the oppression of the Nusairis [Alawites].”
“Al Qaeda and other Mujahideen have taken the leadership of this movement in their own hands,” Asim Umar says. “Several groups have gone to Syria from Afghanistan and are leading the Jihad there.”
Pakistani Taliban in Syria
This is not the first time Asim Umar has highlighted the deployment of groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Syria. “And now the black flags of East Persia are moving to Syria after Iraq,” Umar said in a statement in May, according to a translation that was obtained by The Long War Journal.
“The Mujahideen have established their centers in Syria … in order to help establish the caliphate,” Umar said. “At present, al Qaeda and other Mujahideen of Islam have fully controlled this movement.” he continued. “Several lashkars from Afghanistan are also leading in Syria.” [See LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban establish base ‘inside’ Syria.]
Other jihadist sources have confirmed and elaborated upon Asim Umar’s description of the Pakistani Taliban’s role inside Syria.
The BBC reported earlier this month that the Pakistani Taliban had set up a base for operations inside Syria. The BBC interviewed Mohammad Amin, who was described as the “co-ordinator of the Syrian base.” Amin said that the Pakistani Taliban sent a cell to Syria six months ago and it sends “information and feedback” on the Syrian war back to Pakistan.
The cell was “facilitated by our friends in Syria who have previously been fighting in Afghanistan,” Amin explained, and was tasked with assessing “the needs of the Jihad in Syria, and to work out joint operations with our Syrian friends.” While there “are dozens of Pakistani hopefuls in line to join the fighting against the Syrian army,” the cell advised that “there’s already enough manpower in Syria.”
Dawn added that an unnamed “close associate” of Pakistani Taliban emir Hakeemullah Mehsud has also confirmed the deployment to Syria. This Pakistani jihadist said the forces were requested by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant “to be part of a global jihad against the tyrant Syrian regime” and the group “agreed to send the fighters.” [See Threat Matrix report, Pakistani Taliban ‘has a global agenda,’ commander says.]
Both Reuters and the Associated Press followed up with their own reporting on this issue. [See Threat Matrix report, Hundreds of Pakistani jihadists reported in Syria.] In addition to the Pakistani Taliban, other Central Asian and Pakistani jihadist groups have reportedly joined the fight and swelled al Qaeda’s ranks.
Shortly after the BBC initially reported on the Pakistani Taliban’s involvement in Syria, some TTP commanders claimed that the deployment was not officially sanctioned by the group’s shura council. According to Agence France Presse, the TTP leaders did not deny the movement of fighters, including “Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens,” from South Asia to Syria, but claimed that they had traveled to the Levant “independently.”
A “symbiotic relationship”
Maulana Asim Umar’s career is a good example of what the US State Department has described as the “symbiotic relationship” between the TTP and al Qaeda. In its Sept. 1, 2010 designation of the group, State explained that the “TTP draws ideological guidance from al Qaeda, while al Qaeda relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border.”
“This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al Qaeda’s global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members,” the State Department continued. “Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for al Qaeda.”
Reports of the Pakistani Taliban’s involvement in Syria can be read in this light.
Asim Umar himself can be described as an al Qaeda ideologue, TTP propagandist, or both. His video appearances are frequently accompanied by clips of al Qaeda’s senior propagandist in Pakistan, Ahmad Farooq.
BBC Monitoring reported on Sept. 12, 2012 that Farooq and Umar were jointly featured in an al Qaeda-produced “feature-length documentary-format propaganda film” that was intended to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Another video, produced by al Qaeda in November 2012, reviews the history of sharia rule on the Indian subcontinent. The first part featured Umar, while the second showcased Farooq. Umar blamed the British for introducing democracy and destroying sharia law during the days of colonial rule. Umar expressed disbelief at the “stupidity” of Muslims for following “man-made” laws decades after the British withdrawal from the subcontinent.
A video that was posted in early 2013 on the Jamia Hafsa Urdu Forum, which openly supports al Qaeda as well as the Afghan and Pakistani wings of the Taliban, featured clips of Umar and Farooq. The video, which was produced in October 2012, documents the life of a Pakistani militant who was killed in a US drone strike. Umar says in the video that Allah sent humanity both the Koran and Iron, meaning that only by combining Islamic scripture and the sword can Muslims advance their cause.
Umar’s propaganda duties have taken him into other areas as well. He is reportedly the author of book titled, “The Army of Anti-Christ: Blackwater, Documentation of the Dreadful Terrorist Activities of America’s Blackwater in Islamic Countries.”
Asim Umar’s anti-American messaging and focus on the “global jihad” illustrate the degree to which groups such as the Pakistani Taliban are inculcated with al Qaeda’s ideology.