ISLAMABAD: Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), led by commander Asim Umar, has launched the women’s wing of the international terrorist outfit led by Afinda Binte Ayesha who will seek guidance from Umaima Hassan Ahmed Muhammad Hassan, one of the wives of al-Qaeda chief, Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri.
Named as the “Al-Qaeda Shaheen Force”, the women’s wing of the terror outfit would operate from the Pak-Afghan tribal belt and organise a squad of female suicide bombers on the pattern of Nigerian militant group, Boko Haram, which has created havoc in the country by using female suicide bombers to target military installations and security forces. The women wing of the AQIS plans to carry out terrorist activities in Pakistan by using its veiled female suicide bombers who [by taking advantage of their gender] may try to target some sensitive installations, including airports.
The Pakistani Taliban had also used female suicide bombers several times in the past to eliminate their targets, including the late Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed. He had a narrow escape on November 19, 2012 when a female bomber exploded herself as his convoy passed through the Haleemzai Tehsil in Mohmand Agency in a failed bid to kill the Jamaat Ameer who had invited the wrath of the Taliban because of his April 2012 interview wherein he described the Afghan Taliban’s resistance against the Allied Forces in Afghanistan as “true Jihad” and that of the Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan as “un-Islamic” because they were killing innocent civilians.
The female suicide bomber was identified as Umme Usman, an Uzbek national belonging to the TTP and al-Qaeda linked terrorist group — the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — which used to operate from North Waziristan. Lal Masjid prayer leader Maulana Abdul Aziz had also warned on February 10, 2014 that Pakistani Taliban had 500 female suicide bombers in Waziristan and other tribal areas who were ready to act. As things stand, hardly a week has passed without news of a female indulging in an act of extremism or terrorism across the globe. Then there are reports of young Muslim girls pledging their support to the “Caliphate” of Baghdadi-led Daesh on Face book and Twitter, with some of them even escaping to marry Jihadis in Syria. And last but not the least, Hayat Boumeddiene, the fugitive wife of one of three perpetrators of the recent terrorist attacks on a French Magazine in Paris, remains the most wanted terror suspect in the world today.
The formation of the women wing of AQIS only became known to the Pakistani agencies when they intercepted a cell phone communication between some of the top al-Qaeda operatives who are based in the lawless Pak-Afghan tribal belt. As per the communiqué, Afinda Binte Ayesha will seek guidance from Umaima Hassan to make the “Al-Qaeda Shaheen Force” a major Jihadi player in the Indian Subcontinent that will initially consist of 500 female members.
Umaima Hassan had already asked Muslim women in a pamphlet to raise their children in the cult of Jihad and martyrdom. “All the Muslim women of the world should raise their children to love Jihad and die in the cause of Allah. Besides helping to preserve the Mujahedeen and raise their children in the best way, women could go the extra mile and participate themselves in martyrdom missions as suicide bombers,” Umaima Hassan had added.
However, not much is known about Afinda Binte Ayesha, the chief of “Al-Qaeda Shaheen Force. The media wing of AQIS led by Usama Mahmood is expected to formally announce her appointment in near future. The AQIS was launched by Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, led by a Pakistani Jihadi commander, Asim Umar. While making the announcement on September 4, 2014 in a 55-minute video, Zawahiri said the formation of the South Asia branch of al-Qaeda would spread Islamic rule and raise the flag of Jihad across the Subcontinent. Umar, who was shown in a Zawahiri’s video, was tasked with rousing fighters in South Asia. Soon after its formation, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had claimed responsibility for a failed attack at the Karachi Dockyard on September 6, 2014.
But, on the other hand, Usama Mahmud, the spokesman of Al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent, had condemned the December 16, 2014 Peshawar school massacre by the Pakistani Taliban. In a statement issued on December 22, 2014, Usama had asked those involved in the merciless act if they wanted to work for the supremacy of Islam and seek revenge from non-believers, they should actually divert their guns towards the non-believers rather than targeting innocent children. “Those who kill innocent Muslim women and children, whatever name they wanted to give it, we consider it against the Islamic Shariah. We in front of Allah Almighty and in front of our nation distance ourselves of this act.”
According to Pakistani intelligence circles, the AQIS had distributed a manual amongst its cadres in December 2014 which called upon the female followers of the outfit to urge their young children to take up the cause of Jihad. The manual said the women must support the men at the time of war. “Al-Qaeda feels that women can perform specialised roles. They need to help the men who are out on the battlefield and also gather intelligence. The women will however not indulge in war on the battlefield. Using arms is a strict no for the women and the chief of the outfit feels that the women will play a secondary but very important role in this long drawn battle. Jihad should be loved and the importance of this should be told. If you have children, tell them the importance of Jihad”, the manual of AQIS added.
In fact, the policy of Pakistan militants to use veil-clad female suicide bombers to effectively strike their targets without being intercepted has already set alarm bells ringing for security agencies. Before trying to kill Qazi Hussain Ahmed on November 19, 2012, another female suicide bomber had blown herself up on December 25, 2010 at a distribution centre of the World Food Programme in the Khar area of Bajaur, killing 45 people.
In another such incident on April 21, 2013, a female bomber blew herself up at the main gate of a government-run hospital in Khar area of the Bajaur Agency, killing four people. The woman, apparently in her 20s with face covered, was about to enter the hospital when security guards asked her to stop. But the woman was quick to detonate the explosives strapped to her body.
In yet another incident on June 15, 2013, a female bomber exploded herself in a bus which was carrying female students of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University. The burqa-clad female bomber who was impersonating a university student boarded the bus and detonated the explosives strapped to her body. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the bus bombing, saying it was carried out by Ayesha Siddiqa. According to security agencies dealing with suicide bombings, the emerging phenomenon of female bombers poses a bigger challenge to law enforcement agencies in Pakistan since women in their all-enveloping burqas (veils) can easily breach security.
According to well-informed circles in security agencies, in a conservative society like Pakistan, a veil is perfect for a female bomber the concealment of explosive devices as well as suicide jackets. They add that the Taliban and some other Jihadi groups run female suicide bombing cells in remote areas of northwestern Pakistan and northeastern Afghanistan. The existence of these cells was actually confirmed by a 12-year-old Pakistani girl, Meena Gul, who had confessed in June 2010 to having been trained to be a human bomb.
Meena said that she was brainwashed to target the Pakistani security forces in one of several such training camps. She was detained by the police in the Munda area in Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to Meena, female bombers from Pakistan and Afghanistan are trained in small cells on both sides of the border, to be finally dispatched to their missions with a sermon, “God will reward you with a place in heaven.” Meena said that her cell was under the command of Zainab, her sister-in-law, who used to dress as a man and fought alongside the Taliban against Pakistani troops.