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The Jundullah phenomenon
B Raman
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April 17, 2007
The word Jundullah can be translated as the Army of Allah or Soldiers of Allah.

It came into currency during the jihad waged by the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo against the Serbs in the 1990s, with the backing of the US. These foreign mercenaries --mainly Pakistanis and Arabs plus one Indian Muslim residing in Saudi Arabia -- who joined this jihad projected themselves as Jundullah.

From there, the Jundullah phenomenon spread to Chechnya. Many Chechen jihadi organisations and individuals, which joined the jihad against the Russian presence in their territory, identified themselves as belonging to the Jundullah Brigade. Many of their press statements were signed by individuals, who identified themselves as spokesmen of the Jundullah.

When the Chechen jihadis started their second jihad against the Russians in September, 1999, a statement issued on behalf of the jihadis announced the appointment of one Abdullaev Supjan as commander of the Jundullah. He subsequently became vice-president of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

On November 8, 2001, the Russian government issued the following statement: 'Shamil Iriskhanov, a notorious terrorist from the closest company of terrorist Number One Basayev, has been destroyed in Chechnya. In the opinion of experts, federal special units are closing in on the circle around the leader of 'irreconcilable' militants Shamil Basayev. In November, he has lost two of his closest associates. Adam Umalatov and three bodyguards were killed a week ago. Umalatov, commander of what is called the Islamic brigade Jundullah and a childhood friend of the Basayev brothers, was with them in Karabakh, Abkhazia and during the first Chechen campaign.'

The Jundullah phenomenon then moved simultaneously to the Central Asian Republics and Indonesia. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan started a propaganda division, which it named as the Jundullah Productions. Before the 9/11 attack on the US, there were many instances of attacks on Christians by Muslim extremists in Indonesia. Some of the perpetrators projected themselves as belonging to the Jundullah or Lashkar Jundullah.

It was initially believed that the Lashkar Jundullah, established in September 2000 in South Sulawesi, was the militant wing of the Committee for the Enforcement of Islamic Law (Komite Penegakan Syariat Islam), but in its Asia Report No 43 of December 11, 2002, the International Crisis Group of Brussels said that the name Jundullah was becoming confusing because 'many Islamic groups operating out of Central Java, Maluku, and Sulawesi called themselves by the same name, which means Army of Allah.'

The phenomenon then spread simultaneously to Pakistan and Egypt. In 2003, the Egyptian authorities arrested 43 persons and prosecuted them before a military court on a charge of forming an underground group called the Jundullah and planning attacks on 'Western targets' in Egypt.

In Pakistan, the perpetrators of an unsuccessful ambush to kill Lieutenant General Aslam Saleem Hayat, then the corps commander of Karachi, at the beginning of 2004 were described as cadres of the Jundullah trained by the IMU. The cadres of the Jundullah were also described as responsible for an explosion near the US consulate in Karachi in March 2006, in which one US diplomat travelling in his car was killed. The explosion took place on the eve of the visit of President George W Bush to Pakistan.

On January 27, 2004 -- two months before the Madrid blasts and 18 months before the London blasts -- Hossam el-Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist, in an article drew attention to the emergence of the phenomenon of freelance jihadis -- that is, individual Muslims not belonging to any organisation, who take to jihad against the US and Israel because of their anger against their policies. His article was titled Crusaders Vs Soldiers of Allah (Jundullah).

He wrote: 'Observers in Cairo have highlighted the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada, September 11 attacks, and the US-led onslaught on Afghanistan and Iraq as triggers to the ongoing radicalisation across the Muslim World, a radicalisation that is feeding Islamist militancy, especially as Muslims could clearly see that it is largely the Islamists who are now on the forefront of the struggle to end Western hegemony in the region. It has never been that easy for rage to meet ideology.'

'September 11 was Islamism's Suez War,' said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst with Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. 'Nasser's defiance of the West in 1956 was the virtual birthmark of pan-Arabism. The September 11 attacks and the war on terror served the same purpose for pan-Islamism. They united Muslims around the world by the sense that 'we are all under attack by the West, and we have to do something.'

Rashwan argues, 'This is pushing new actors to enter the stage of armed politics: the freelance jihadis.'

Inquiries with well-informed sources in the Islamic world show that Jundullah is not the name of any particular organisation. It is the name of a pan-Islamic and anti-US and anti-Israel suicide terrorism phenomenon which is creeping across the Islamic world and the Muslim Diaspora in Western countries. Everybody, who takes to suicide terrorism against the US or Israel -- whether individually or as a member of a jihadi organisation --looks upon himself or herself as a Jundullah -- a soldier of Allah. All pan-Islamic jihadi organisations -- whether Al Qaeda or any other organisation -- look upon themselves as Jundullah fighting to establish the sovereignty of Allah over the Islamic world and to 'liberate' areas which, according to them, historically belonged to the Ummah.

These sources also say that the so-called Jundullah, which has been claiming responsibility for some acts of terrorism against the Iranian government, is not part of this phenomenon. According to them, it is actually the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, which has been responsible for these incidents. As allegedly advised by the Central Intelligence Agency, it has been claiming responsibility in the name of Jundullah.

B Raman

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