By Sanjeev Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS): East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an Uyghur militant group closely collaborates with Al-Qaida, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaat Ansarullah to plan attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan, Tajikistan and elsewhere, as per a UN report.
ISIL is taking advantage of the turmoil in Afghanistan, including by recruiting ETIM/TIP fighters under the leadership of a Uighur team, in an attempt to expand the organization and support the group's cause.
One Member State reported that the perpetrator of the ISIL-K bombing of the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque in Kunduz on October 8 was reportedly a Uighur fighter from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China.
Following the Taliban's return to power, ETIM/TIP fighters were relocated from their traditional stronghold in Badakhshan Province, on the border with China, to Baghlan, Takhar and other provinces, as part of the Taliban's efforts to both protect and restrain the group.
Member States continue to estimate its strength at between 200 and 700 fighters. According to several Member States, the group remains active in military training and in planning terrorist attacks against Chinese interests.
ETIM/TIP members have been encouraged to strengthen their ties to Afghanistan by becoming refugees or Afghan citizens, as a means of more deeply entrenching the group in the country. One Member State reported that ETIM/TIP members frequently visited the Wakhan corridor, calling for a "return to Xinjiang for jihad".
Central Asian foreign terrorist fighters and ETIM/TIP members in Afghanistan have embraced the Taliban takeover. They look forward to international recognition of the Taliban, believing that the "terrorist" label will then be removed from them.
They also anticipate that the Taliban de facto administration will provide them with refugee status and passports, enabling them to travel internationally.
Member States assess the number of TTP fighters at between 3,000 and 5,500 in Afghanistan, with Noor Wali Mehsud remaining as their leader. Mediation from the Taliban has led to a reduction in TTP attacks against Pakistan. According to one Member State, there have been talks regarding TTP family members in Afghanistan who wish to resettle in Pakistan under assurances that they would reintegrate peacefully into local communities, the UN report said.