Role of ISKP in the terror assault in Moscow linked to Pakistan’s deep state

Role of ISKP in the terror assault in Moscow linked to Pakistan’s deep state

While it is not yet clear who the entities were that had decided to use the services of ISKP in the Moscow attack, sources say that a few ISI officials had acted as intermediaries and were aware of the terror plot.

Evidence in the Moscow terror attack of 22 March suggests that while the muscle behind the attack was provided by the terrorist group, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)—the regional arm of the ISIS—but the brain behind the attack had reached out to ISKP via Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), say official and non-governmental sources who have experience of working in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and have significant knowledge of the various terror groups that are at play there. The forces that motivated elements in the ISI to facilitate such an attack are as yet unknown, but it’s clear that there were external cues that the ISI acted on. The investigation by multiple Russian agencies to locate the brain behind the Moscow terror attack is yet to reach a finality.

Intelligence gathered by multiple agencies over a period of time, covering the interactions between ISKP and ISI, especially after Lt General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum took over as the ISI head in November 2021—interactions that subsequently got verified by actions on the ground—indicates that ISKP has emerged as one of the most prominent unofficial arms of the Pakistani deep state, a sort of mercenary group that is being used to carry out actions to further ISI’s strategic goals.
While it is not yet clear who the entities were that had decided to use the services of ISKP in this recent attack, sources tracking the development said that a few ISI officials had acted as intermediaries in this entire development and that they were aware of the terror plot.

It is not yet clear whether ISKP being recruited to carry out the Moscow attack was in the knowledge of the ISI top boss, given the fact that ISKP commanders and cadre are staying as Pakistani state guests in safe houses provided by the ISI, as was revealed in detail by The Sunday Guardian in a series of articles published in the last few months. But it will not be far-fetched to assume that if not Anjum, at least some his top colleagues were aware of this plot and had likely acted as facilitators between the ISKP and those who wanted to recruit them for the Moscow attack.

ISKP acting on its own and sending its men to carry out such an attack that has global strategic ramifications cannot happen without the involvement of some of its handlers, the ISI being the most prominent among them.
Was the attack carried out to stoke or amplify public anger against Vladimir Putin, and on whose orders, if so, is something that may be revealed in the coming days.
Earlier last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that “radical Islamists” had carried out the attack, while blaming Ukraine and Western nations for supporting the attack. These allegations have been strongly denied by Ukraine and the other named countries.

The ISI, which has a long history of using terror groups to achieve its goals, decided to actively employ ISKP as a para-military force of sorts after the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.

GHQ, Rawalpindi and ISI, Aabpara, after realizing that the Taliban government in Kabul would not be heeding its directions, decided to use the ISKP against them.
As a result, the country is now witnessing blasts and terror attacks to generate anti-government sentiments against the Taliban among the people, develop a sense of fear in society and to shift Afghan forces from the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders to take part in anti-terror activities in view of ISKP’s activities in civilian areas.

Kabul believes that ISKP is being regularly supplied with modern arms and ammunition that are only available with the Pakistan Army. How these arms are being recovered from the ISKP cadre is something which has not been responded to by GHQ.
All these suicide blasts, officials and sources say, were being carried out by ISKP on the orders of the ISI. Similarly, to bring the international spotlight on Kabul, ISI after the Moscow attack, has started a propaganda campaign claiming that Al-Qaeda was regrouping in Afghanistan. The claims are being made despite neutral and international observers, including those affiliated to the United Nations confirming that Al-Qaeda is now a spent force.

This is being done to ring alarm bells in Washington where the word “Al-Qaeda” immediately leads to a heightened sense of activity in the wake of the horrific 9/11 attacks and with the intention to, official sources claim, get Washington again involved in Afghanistan against the government in Kabul.
Using the ruse of being the only entity that can control and leash these terror groups is something that the ISI has been using for long, for which it has a history of demanding benefits from Washington. This has been acknowledged by US embassy officials who have served in Islamabad.
More significantly, the claims being made and the misinformation being spread by Pakistan’s ISI on the pact between Kabul and Al-Qaeda have been debunked by a recent UN report.

A 24 January report by the United Nations Security Council committee created to monitor Al Qaeda stated that the capabilities of ISKP to carry out attacks and to operate freely in Afghanistan had greatly reduced due to the “impact of the de facto authorities’ (Taliban government) counter-terrorism efforts against their principal internal threat and a change in strategy directed by the group’s highly adaptable leader.”
While commenting on Al Qaeda, the report had stated that the Taliban government was “making efforts to constrain the activities of some other listed groups, but with mixed effect. There have been reports of tensions with senior Al-Qaida figures, who resent attempts at control.” It added that “None of the Al-Qaida-affiliated groups have recovered sophisticated external operations capability which would allow them to launch major operations at long range, and they are conscious of the sensitivities of their Taliban hosts. The number of senior Al-Qaida figures in Afghanistan, with historical ties to the group, to be fewer than a dozen.”

“ISIL-K attacks have decreased as a consequence of counter-terrorism pressure exerted by the Taliban and its good level of infiltration into ISIL-K ranks. ISIL-K has also significantly penetrated the Taliban. While the Taliban claimed to have defeated ISIL-K, terrorist attacks continued and the Taliban leadership to some extent remained divided over approaches in dealing with both the group and Salafist communities sympathetic to it. The recently created Batah Unit within the Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence aims to ensure that educated ISIL-K prisoners abandon Salafist ideology and embrace Deobandism”, the report had stated.

It is important to mention that as per sources, the attackers in the Moscow terror incident had likely trained for the attack in the Af-Pak region, where the ISKP, under the protection of ISI, runs camps where their fighters stay and train.
Sources say that the ISKP is now more of a mercenary group that takes payment through crypto currency for rendering its “services”. Given the close ties the ISI shares with ISKP and the fact that the ISKP does not have a formal structure, most of those who want to use the ISKP prefer reaching out to them through their networks in ISI, for which the relevant ISI officials get a “fee”.

The United Nations Security Council too has revealed how ISIS and ISKP were financing their operations through crypto currency and in one case they received over $2 million.
“European investigations illustrated the global and interconnected nature of ISIL financial
इस शब्द का अर्थ जानिये
facilitation, with several Member States assessing Türkiye as a logistical hub for ISIL-K operations in Europe. One Member State reported a case involving a complex terrorism financing scheme for the recruitment and travel of foreign terrorist fighters to Afghanistan through electronic wallets that received over $2 million in donations on the Tron blockchain from more than 20 Western countries. The scheme was operated by an organized criminal network of Tajik individuals who was arrested in Istanbul, Türkiye, in late June 2023,” said the same UN report.

The first officially documented proof of ISKP being on the good side of the ISI Aabpara was revealed when in September 2014 three ISIS commanders were received in Islamabad under state security. This included the infamous Zubair al-Kuwaiti, a prominent ISIS leader. The other two who accompanied him from Syria were the Saudi Arabian Sheikh Yusuf and Uzbek national, Fahim Ansari. They were then taken in an armed escort to Rawalpindi, where the headquarters of the Pakistan Army is located, to meet top members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (which is led by Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed). They had another closed door meeting with senior members of Jamaat Islami of Pakistan on multiple issues, including on how to strengthen Saudi-Wahhabi ideology in the region.

Incidentally, after just a few days of this visit, the attack on the Peshawar army school took place on 16 December 2014, which was attributed to one of the many groups that secretly works under the command of the ISI.
On 27 March this year, Dr Naseem Baloch, the chairman of Baloch National Movement, while interacting with officials at the United Nation stated that ISIS and its regional affiliate, the ISKP were running training and recruitment camps in Balochistan, Pakistan under the active support of the Pakistan Army.

Sources told The Sunday Guardian that Sanaullah Ghafari, the 29-year-old emir of the Afghan branch of Islamic State, who was appointed on the said post in 2020, and who carries a bounty of $10 million on his head that has been declared by the US government, was given a safe haven in Balochistan after he had to flee Afghanistan following the series of military action taken by the Taliban government.

Fadia Jiffry

Fadia Jiffry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *