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Azerbaijan: Whether al-Jihad or any other terrorist organization had a presence in Azerbaijan between August 1995 and May 1996, and whether al-Jihad was active in the country anytime before or after this period

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 5 February 2003
Citation / Document Symbol AZE41090.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Azerbaijan: Whether al-Jihad or any other terrorist organization had a presence in Azerbaijan between August 1995 and May 1996, and whether al-Jihad was active in the country anytime before or after this period, 5 February 2003, AZE41090.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3f7d4d577.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Terrorism in Azerbaijan, in general

According to the Russian-language Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo,

It is no secret that the special services and terrorist organizations of various countries felt free in Azerbaijan until recently and still have no special problems. Various kinds of Islamic "charity organizations" are very active in Baku. It is no secret that some of them are in essence branches of the special services and terrorist organizations of Islamic states (20 Sept. 2001).

As of mid-2002, Azerbaijan had signed on to 11 United Nations conventions and to ten Council of Europe documents related to counter-terrorism (Azerbaijan 15-19 July 2002; Zerkalo 24 Oct. 2002). While Azerbaijan has "sharply limited" the "Chechen diaspora," as well as the funding from "Islamic philanthropic organizations" within the country, it continues to be "as open as possible to foreign penetration and is practically defenseless from the standpoint of preventing the activity of various interested special services and terrorist organizations" (ibid.).

According to Yerevan Mediamax, Azerbaijan had "sheltered international terrorists" for "many years" (28 Oct. 2002). This article goes on to state that "[i]t is commonly known that the Azeri branch of the 'Islamic Jihad,' which later merged with Bin-Ladin's Al-Qa'idah, coordinated the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania" (Yerevan Mediamax 28 Oct. 2002).

Between 11 September 2001 and 24 October 2002, over 30 foreign nationals linked with terrorist organizations in the country's territory had been arrested and turned over by Azerbaijan to the corresponding states (Zerkalo 24 Oct. 2002). Eight of these foreign nationals were citizens of Egypt who were "active members" of organizations such as al-Qaeda, al-Jamaat-ul-Islam and al-Jihad (ibid.).

According to Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, Azerbaijan's situation concerning terrorist activities, organizations and funding has improved:

While Azerbaijan previously had been a route for international mujahidin with ties to terrorist organizations seeking to move men, money, and material throughout the Caucasus, Baku stepped up its efforts to curb the international logistics networks supporting the mujahidin in Chechnya, and has effectively reduced their presence and hampered their activities. Azerbaijan has taken steps to combat terrorist financing (May 2002).

Al-Qaeda in Azerbaijan

According to various news sources, al-Qaeda has a presence in Azerbaijan (USA Today 20 Sept. 2001; SATP 2001). In fact, Rohan Gunaratna, who is a Sri Lankan intelligence expert on counter-terrorism, writes in his book entitled Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror that following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, al-Qaeda "established an office in Baku and supported the Azeri mujahidin in their war against Christian Armenia for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, from 1988 till 1994" (May 2002, 134). Gunaratna goes on to state that cooperation also existed between the Azeris and the Chechens, which resulted in the recapture of a town called Goradiz in Nagorno-Karabakh (ibid.). The "Azeri Afghan brigade" was dissolved in 1994, but "[a] few disgruntled and disbanded members of the brigade resorted to terrorism in Baku, mostly bombings of public places and transport infrastructure" (ibid.).

Al-Qaeda also functions through other terrorist organizations such as al-Jihad, al-Gamma al-Islamiyya, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a number of jihad groups in other countries, which include Azerbaijan (US 18 Dec. 2001; The Gold Coast Bulletin 17 Oct. 2002).

In the mid-1980's, Osama bin Laden co-founded the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) [Afghan Service Bureau Front] (Gunaratna May 2002, xii) "to help funnel fighters and money to the Afghan resistance [against the Soviets] in Peshawar with the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdallah Azzam" (FAS 31 Oct. 2002). Some time during the 1980's, MAK's resources "were diverted by Al Qaeda away from Afghanistan into regional conflicts where Islamist guerrillas were involved," including Azerbaijan (Gunaratna May 2002, 5).

An analysis of Osama bin Laden's billing records from 1996 to 1998 revealed that Azerbaijan was amongst the "frequently called" countries (ibid., 12).

Upon meeting Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is bin Laden's chief of operations and leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group, "became more active, and he began travelling between Yemen, Sudan, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, and the United States" (Al-Sharq al-Awsat 22 Sept. 2001). According to a 2002 news report, al-Zawahiri's computer had been found in Kabul and revealed electronic messages between himself and organization leaders in London, Azerbaijan (Baku) and Yemen through a person named Izzat "who acted as the link between them" (ibid. 6 June 2002).

Egyptian Jihad groups in Azerbaijan

According to a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, Al-Quds al-Arabi, the "Egyptian Jihad Organization" had an active cell in Baku, Azerbaijan, which operated under the leadership of Ibrahim Aydarus (19 Dec. 2001). The article, however, does not provide any dates in this regard.

In 1998, Mohammed al-Zawahiri and Ahmed Salama Mabrouk were both arrested in Azerbaijan, and were handed over to Egypt to face charges of belonging to illegal groups (The Boston Globe 8 Dec. 2001). Mohammed al-Zawahiri is Ayman al-Zawahiri's brother (ibid.), while Mabrouk is the "head of the Organization Committee in the (Islamic) Jihad group and [a] member of the Special Action Committee which is behind the assassination attempts against several Egyptian officials" (Al-Sharq al-Awsat 25 Oct. 2001).

In early 2002, Mahmud Ibrahim al-Najmi was arrested and handed over by Azerbaijan to Egypt, where he was charged of belonging to an "illegal underground group, namely Al-Jihad" (Al-Sharq al-Awsat 20 May 2002). No other specific mention of al-Jihad activities in Azerbaijan could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Jeyshullah (Wahhabis) (Army of God) in Azerbaijan

According to an October 2000 news report, there is a Wahhabi base in the Djandjlik district of Baku which is controlled by the World Assembly of Islamic Youth, and is commanded by Muhamed Salem Abdel Hamid, Mohammed Ali Horoko, Aref Abdullah and Hauruzi Kaid Abdelrakhman (Moskovsky Komsomolets 19 Oct. 2000).

Azerbaijani law enforcement officials arrested various Jeyshullah members in 1999, who were tried in 2000, and "remain in prison" (Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001 May 2002). In 2001, another operation that was carried out against the Jeyshullah by Azerbaijani law enforcement resulted in the arrest of "[v]arious activists of this group" (525 Gazet 1 May 2001). Those arrested were reportedly citizens of Azerbaijan "who received special military and ideological training in Chechnya some time ago" (ibid. 1 May 2001). According to 525 Gazet,

The training covered ideological basis of the radical Wahhabi movement and military methods for acts of terrorism. It seems that this group ... was trained for acts of terrorism against embassies and representatives of foreign states, as well as different religious movements in Azerbaijan (ibid.).

Jeyshullah's presence in Azerbaijan began in 1995, at which time its members "distribued leaflets calling on the Muslim population of [Azerbaijan] to start jihad against other religions and to disobey the government" (ibid.). The aim of the group is to spread Wahhabism in Azerbaijan "by getting rid of those who stand in their way," to "seize power in the country by force and, finally, to create an Islamic state" (ibid. 25 July 2000).

Charitable organizations with links to terrorist activities in Azerbaijan

The al-Haramein Islamist Foundation is an international charitable organization that was set up "to provide support for the terrorist movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s" (SATP 2001). Currently, this organization "renders financial assistance to many Islamist terrorists worldwide" and has a representative office in Azerbaijan (ibid.).

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), this organization set up a fund "in support of Chechen terrorists" called the "'Foundation Regarding Chechnya,' a branch of which opened in Azerbaijan at the end of 1999" (ibid.). The SATP goes on to state that

The new fund is financed through the Al-Barak bank. The fund sent 25 special 'operations' to the regions bordering Chechnya. The 'operations' are charged with the task of establishing secure supply routes for the terrorists' military units in Chechnya (ibid.).

For additional information on the al-Haramein Islamist Foundation, please refer to the attached article entitled "Saudi Arabia Linked to Funding of Chechen Separatists" published on 26 January 2002 in the Moscow-based Izvestiya.

The Society for Social Reforms is a Kuwait-based charity that operates under the aegis of the Kuwaiti United Aid Committee (Moskovsky Komsomolets 19 Oct. 2000). Reportedly, the Society was established by the "extremist wing of the Islamic Brotherhood" and "used its funds to 'recruit followers for infiltration of government bodies, and to analyze the military, geographic, sociopolitical, and economic situation in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] for future expansion, including military expansion'" (ibid.).

The organization was registered by the Russian Justice Ministry in 1993 and has branches in 50 countries (ibid.). According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), this organization "has had contacts with Chechen guerrillas, Osama bin Laden, the Al-Gamaa, Al-Islamia, and Al-Jihad al Islami terrorist groups, and Bosnian guerrillas" (ibid.). According to one news report, "[b]efore the war, the Society had a branch in Chechnya to which cash was sent from Baku, Azerbaijan" (ibid.).

According to Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001, "Azerbaijani authorities revoked the registration of the local branch of the Kuwait Society for the Revival of the Islamic Heritage, an Islamic nongovernmental organization (NGO) suspected of supporting terrorist groups" (May 2002).

For general information on Islamic extremism in Azerbaijan, please refer to the attached 17 July 2002 Central Asia Caucasus Analyst article entitled "Islamic Extremism in Azerbaijan: Reality and Myth."

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

525 Gazet [Baku, in Azeri]. 1 May 2001. "Azeri Law-Enforcement Bodies Arrest Religious, Terrrorist Group Members." (FBIS-SOV-2001-0502 1 May 2001/WNC)

_____. 25 July 2000. Ali Ahmadov. "Jeyshullah Has Tried to Carry Out a Coup in Azerbaijan." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2003]

Al-Quds al-Arabi [London, in Arabic]. 19 December 2001. Lamya Radi and As'ad Abbud. "Egyptian Sources Say 2 Islamists Held in UK are Leading Jihad Figures." (FBIS-NES-2001-1219 19 Dec. 2001/WNC)

Al-Sharq al-Awsat [London, in Arabic]. 6 June 2002. Muhammad al-Shafi'i. "Report Details Egyptian Jihad Leaders' Differences, Bin Ladin's Connection." (FBIS-NES-2002-0606 6 June 2002/WNC)

_____. 20 May 2002. Abdu Zaynah. "Report on Whereabouts of Family Members of Islamic Jihad Member Al-Najmi Held in Egypt." (FBIS-NES-2002-0520 20 May 2002/WNC)

_____. 25 October 2001. "Azerbaijan Reportedly Hands Over Second Fundamentalist to Egypt." (FBIS-NES-2001-1025 25 Oct. 2001/WNC)

_____. 22 September 2001. Abduh Zaynah and Muhammad Bazi. "Report on Ayman al-Zawahiri's Life, Connection With Bin Ladin." (FBIS-NES-2001-0922 22 Sept. 2001/WNC)

Asia Times. 12 October 2002. Sreeram Chaulia. "Book Review: Inside Al Qaeda, Global Network of Terror by Rohan Gunaratna." [Accessed 17 Jan. 2003]

Azerbaijan. 15-19 July 2002. "Presentation of the Azerbaijani Delegation at the Seminar on 'Building the Legal Infrastructure to Counter Terrorism.'" [Accessed 31 Jan. 2003]

The Boston Globe. 8 December 2001. Anthony Shadid with contributions from Bryan Bender. "Arrests, Deaths Undo Terror Web in Egypt." (NEXIS)

Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 31 October 2002. "al-Qa'ida (The Base)." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2003]

The Gold Coast Bulletin [Gold Coast, Australia]. 17 October 2002. "Many-Headed Monster." (NEXIS)

Gunaratna, Rohan. May 2002. Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror. New York: Columbia University Press.

According to Asia Times, Gunaratna "personally conducted several hundred hours of interviews of more than 200 terrorists, including al-Qaeda members, in more than 15 countries, and thoughtfully compressed the data into a book" (12 Oct. 2002).

Moskovsky Komsomolets [Moscow, in Russian]. 19 October 2000. "The Islamic Brotherhood has Russia All Divided." (NEXIS)

Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001. May 2002. United States Department of State. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). 2001. "International Linkages of Islamist Terrorist Outfits." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2003]

United States. 18 December 2001. Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony. J.T. Caruso. "Global Reach of Al-Qaeda." (NEXIS)

USA Today. 20 September 2001. "America's Terrorist Enemies Have Bases Worldwide." [Accessed 31 Jan. 2003]

Yerevan Mediamax [Armenia, in English]. 28 October 2002. "Armenia Urged to Step Up Vigilance Following Moscow Theater Siege." (FBIS-SOV-2002-1028 28 Oct. 2002/WNC)

Zerkalo [Baku, in Russian]. 24 October 2002. "Presidential Staffer Review Azerbaijani Security Service Efforts Against Terrorism." (FBIS-SOV-2002-1112 24 Oct. 2002/WNC)

_____. 20 September 2001. "Azeri Territory of No Use to USA for Anti-Terrorist Operation, Azeri Paper." (NEXIS)

Attachments

Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst. 17 July 2002. Anar Valiyev and Yusif Valiyev. "Islamic Extremism in Azerbaijan: Reality and Myth." [Accessed 3 Feb. 2003]

Izvestiya [Moscow, in Russian]. 26 January 2002. "Saudi Arabia Linked to Funding of Chechen Separatists." (BBC Monitoring 31 Jan. 2002/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Encyclopedia of World Terrorism. 1997. Vol. I-III.

Jane's Intelligence Review. (Dec. 1995, Vol. 7, No. 12 to May 1996, Vol. 8, No. 5, and Jan. 1999, Vol. 11, No. 1 to Jan. 2003, Vol. 15, No. 1)

Journal of South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Spring 1999, Vol. XXII, No. 3 to Winter 2002, Vol. XXV, No. 2)

The Middle East (Sept. 1995 to May 1996, and Jan. 1999 to Jan. 2003)

Middle East International (Aug. 1995, No. 506 to May 1996, No. 526 and Jan. 1999, No. 591 to Dec. 2002, No. 689)

Middle East Report (Spring 1995 to Summer 1996 and Spring 1999 to Winter 2002)

Internet sites, including:

BBC

Centre for Defence Information (CDI)

International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism

Search engine:

Google

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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