The Reach Of The Islamic State
The reach of the Islamic State
NEW DELHI: 43 Ismaili Shia Muslims were killed and 20 others injured as Jundullah “Soldiers of Allah” that swore allegiance to the Islamic State last November struck in Karachi. The attack, brutal as it was, is all the more significant as it is the Syria and Iraq-based group’s biggest attack yet in South Asia.
Jundullah spokesperson Ahmed Marwat told Reuters ,"These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them kafir (non-Muslim). We had four attackers. In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shi'ites and Christians." According to some reports, a blood-stained pamphlet was found at the scene in which the Islamic State itself had claimed responsibility.
Significantly, Jundullah claimed last November that a delegation from the Islamic State had visited Balochistan. Marwat said then that the purpose of the visit was to see how it could work to unite Pakistani militant groups. This was just after Jundullah had announced it allegiance to IS. The military offensive against the militants has proven to be a double edged sword in Pakistan. On the one hand it has weakened and splintered the militant organisations, and on the other as a result of this has led them to seek new coalitions with the Islamic State clearly cashing in on the opportunity to enter both Pakistan and Afghanistan through the two outfits of the Taliban respectively, and their offshoots.
Earlier, the provincial government of Balochistan had conveyed a confidential report to the federal government and law enforcement agencies warning of increased footprints of IS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daish, in Pakistan.
"It has been reliably learnt that Daish has offered some elements of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ) to join hands in Pakistan. Daish has also formed a ten-member Strategic Planning Wing," the report from the Home and Tribal Affair Department of Balochistan had said according to the Pakistani journalists.
The attack on the Karachi bus now is the first confirmation that Jundullah is now working in allegiance with the Islamic State that is becoming active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, the Islamic State claimed its first attack a few weeks ago, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest outside a bank in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangahar, killing at least 34 people and injuring 125 others. The attack was claimed by a group called ISIS Wilayat Khorasan, with a statement issued naming the suicide bomber as Abu Mohammad Khorasani. A photograph purportedly of Khorasani was included, showing the attacker seated on a prayer mat, a scarf covering his face and a Kalashnikov rifle by his side. A black Islamic State flag was visible in the background.
Referring to this claim, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said: “Who claimed responsibility for the horrific attack in Nangahar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.”
These attacks indicate that the Islamic State has very much gained a foothold in South Asia. The group seems to be expanding outside of its stronghold in Syria and Iraq, a rare but very significant achievement for a militant group that’s expansion is usually curtailed by ideology, sects, societal differences and local opposing militias.
For instance, the group seems to be making inroads into Libya. In addition to a series of attacks on embassies in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the group released a video purportedly showing the killing of up to 30 Ethiopian Christians and the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. The videos was released by the Islamic State’s media arm and was carried out by militants who say they are associated with the Tripoli Province of Islamic State -- a Libyan group that pledged allegiance to IS last year.
The beheading followed an attack on the luxurious Corinthia hotel in central Tripoli that killed nine people three weeks earlier that was claimed by the Islamic State. The militant group have also claimed other attacks -- including a series of attacks targeting empty embassies and local security buildings in Tripoli.
However, despite these attacks, it is not clear how much influence the group holds. For one, the Islamic State has seen success by capitalizing on the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq and Syria, and sectarian tensions of this scale do not exist in Libya. The crisis in Libya is more directly concerned with the local power vacuum, and this context has led to many on social media wondering whether the group is really responsible for all the attacks it has claimed.
The killing of the Egyptian Christians specifically drew the ire of the Egyptians, who are in turn engaged in a fight against Islamic militants in the Sinai peninsula -- with Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), that has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in the region, having pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. “After entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries,” the statement by the group said. The statement went on to ask Egyptians to rebel against "the tyrant," President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, declaring that “we will continue to fight the army until the day of judgment.”
The group is also taking advantage of the conflict in Yemen, with group claiming to be a Yemeni branch of the Islamic State saying it was responsible for an attack on two mosques linked to the Shiite Houthis that killed 137 and injured 350 people. The group also claimed an attack on tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia, killed 23 people.
Also recently, militant group Boko Haram that is based in Nigeria, also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The group officially changed its name to Islamic State's West Africa Province," or ISWAP. Boko Haram -- itself a nickname for Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad" -- had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State previously, but till now, was operating under its independent name. “Our caliph, God save him, has accepted the pledge of loyalty of our brothers of Boko Haram so we congratulate Muslims and our jihadi brothers in West Africa,” Reuters quoted Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad Adnani as saying in an audio message in March.