Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI)

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Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI)

ALTERNATE NAME: Movement of Islamic Holy War

LEADERS: Qari Saifullah Akhtar


USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Initially Afghanistan, later Kashmir Valley region, in Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan, as well as in Central Asia, Chechnya, Burma, and Tajikistan


Harkat ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI, or Movement of Islamic Holy War) was reportedly conceived in Afghanistan in 1980, in the midst of the Afghanistan-Soviet Union war to support the Pakistan-based Jihad soldiers to fight the Soviet Union army. Reports indicate that the group has undergone a series of organizational and cosmetic changes and has expanded its operations in the Indian territories of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as in Bangladesh. Terrorism experts are of the opinion that HUJI is prominent among the various Pakistan-based terrorist organizations that are reportedly operational in the India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

As of 2004, the U.S. State Department has listed the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.


HUJI was reportedly set up in the 1980s by two Islamic extremist organizations based in Pakistan, the Jamaat-ul-Ulema-e-Islami (or Islamic Assembly, JuI) and the Tabligh-i-Jamaat (TiJ). The group was allegedly led by Maulvi Irshad Ahmed with the motive of providing relief services for the Mujahideen (holy warriors, the word is often used to describe various armed Islamic fundamentalist fighters) fighting for Afghanistan in their war against the Soviet Union. Eventually, the group also purportedly established contact with the principal intelligence body Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and went on to recruit and train the Mujahideen.

After the group leader Maulvi Irshad Ahmed was killed in the Afghan war in 1985, intelligence reports claim that the group split up into two factions, and one faction, Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HUM, or Movement of the Holy Warriors), was reportedly formed under the leadership of Fazalur Rehman Khalil. Terrorism experts pointed out that the new leader of HUJI was Qari Saifullah Akhtar, but reportedly the group further split and a new group, Jamait ul-Mujahideen (JUM), was formed under the leadership of Maulana Masood Kashmiri. Reports indicate that in 1991, the three splinter groups reunited to form a combined force to fight aggressively in Kashmir. This united version, known as Harkat ul-Ansar (HUA, or Movement of the Islamic Patrons), was allegedly formed in Pakistan with Maulana Masood Azhar acting as the General Secretary and with Maulana Saadatullah as its leader. In 1992, the Bangladesh unit of HUJI, known as HUJI-B, was allegedly established under the patronage of Osama bin Laden. The group had Shouqat Osman, also known as Sheikh Farid, as its self-proclaimed leader.

In 1994, Masood Azhar and Sajjad Afghani, the HUA's J&K military chief, were arrested in Srinagar by the Indian government. The arrests, as well as various other attempts by the Indian government to curb the terrorist activities in J&K, have allegedly not led to a successful formation of the HUA alliance.

However, experts indicate that HUJI has successfully committed various acts of communal violence and other acts of terrorism in J&K and other states in India. HUJI is reportedly a part of the Deobandi extremist network of Pakistan, and Indian authorities claim that it receives constant support from the ISI.

According to the Pakistani officials, HUJI, along with two other militant outfits, HUM and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), was allegedly involved in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.



Qari Saifullah Akhtar is one of the three mujahideens who allegedly founded the Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami. Intelligence reports suggest that he, along with his two companions, Maulana Irshad Ahmed and Maulana Abdus Samad Sial, studied at the Jamia Uloom-al-Islamia Madrassa at Karachi. In 1980, researchers indicate that he and his companions left for Afghanistan to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union. Qari Saifullah Akhtar was born as Mohammad Akhtar, but reportedly his prowess in the Afghan war earned him the title of Saifullah (the sword of Allah).

The three-member group that they formed was reportedly known as Jamiat Ansar-ul-Afghaneen (Party of the Friends of the Afghanis) with Maulana Irshad Ahmed as their leader. Intelligence experts are of the opinion that after the group split up in the late 1980s, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Maulana Masood Azhar formed the Harkatul Mujahideen.

During the mid 1990s, Qari Saifullah Akhtar was also accused by the Pakistani authorities of conspiring to form a military coup to overthrow the Benazir Bhutto government. There were published reports that he later escaped to Afghanistan and returned only after the Pervez Musharraf government came into existence in 1999. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the HUJI activities were closely scrutinized by the world. It is alleged that Qari Saifullah Akhtar chose to be a part of the organization after the attacks.


HUJI was found to be involved in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and General Abdul Waheed.
HUJI was placed under Foreign Terrorist Organization category by the United States.
Many members of HUJI perished in the Afghanistan war after the September 11 attacks. Qari Saifullah Akhtar is said to have escaped to Saudi Arabia and later to Dubai.
HUJI was allegedly involved in the attack on the Kolkata office of the United States Information Service.
Saifullah Akhtar was arrested by the Dubai authorities and handed over to the Pakistani authorities.


The HUJI was originally formed in 1980 to support the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. During this period, the group is said to have come in close contact with several Islamic extremist organizations in Afghanistan. After the war in Afghanistan ended, the group shifted its focus on the controversial Jammu and Kashmir issue. Intelligence authorities are of the opinion that the group believes in the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir from India, and plans on achieving this through violence. The Indian authorities also blame the group for targeted acts of violence in Bangladesh as well as in several parts of India. Reportedly, HUJI aims to spread terror and eventually jeopardize the internal security system of India by undertaking various acts of terrorism such as bomb blasts, shoot outs, communal riots, and so on. The Indian government argues that the group is also active in the state of Gujarat and that approximately eighty percent of the mosques in the state are run by Islamic extremists.

The HUJI allegedly uses its armed forces in conducting a series of attacks on the Indian military based in J&K. Allegedly, the Bangladesh branch of HUJI, known as HUJI-B, is responsible for spreading terror in Bangladesh and northeast frontier of India. Indian counter-terrorism analysts confer that several recruits are trained at militant camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group reportedly obtains its funding through generous supporters based in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, and by selling weapons to other militant organizations. The group also allegedly publishes a few journals known as Al-Irshad and Sada-e-Mujahid.

Several analysts also concur that the HUJI is supported by various religious leaders and organizations based in Pakistan and also the group receives financial support from the ISI. Published reports have indicated that a majority of HUJI recruits are Pakistanis and foreign Islamists. It is also speculated by the Indian authorities that it recruits its members from the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and perpetrates various acts of communal disharmony and beleaguered violence in India. There are several investigational reports indicating that the group also has associations with other terrorist outfits, including HUM and JUM.

Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI) (Movement of Islamic Holy War)


HUJI, a Sunni extremist group that follows the Deobandi tradition of Islam, was founded in 1980 in Afghanistan to fight in the jihad against the Soviets. It also is affiliated with the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam's Fazlur Rehman faction (JUI-F) of the extremist religious party Jamiat Ulema-I-Is-lam (JUI). The group, led by Qari Saifullah Akhtar and chief commander Amin Rabbani, is made up primarily of Pakistanis and foreign Islamists who are fighting for the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir and its accession to Pakistan. The group has links to al-Qa'ida. At present, Akhtar remains in detention in Pakistan after his August 2004 arrest and extradition from Dubai.


Has conducted a number of operations against Indian military targets in Jammu and Kashmir. Linked to the Kashmiri militant group al-Faran that kidnapped five Western tourists in Jammu and Kashmir in July 1995; one was killed in August 1995, and the other four reportedly were killed in December of the same year.


Exact numbers are unknown, but there may be several hundred members in Kashmir.


Pakistan and Kashmir. Trained members in Afghanistan until autumn of 2001.


Specific sources of external aid are unknown.

Source: U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, D.C., 2004.

After the fall of the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 2001, most Indian government officials agree that Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami ceased its training operations in Afghanistan. However, there are reports that indicate that HUJI has offices in over forty districts all over Pakistan.


In a testimony presented by Ambassador Michael A. Sheehan before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs in 1999, Mr. Sheehan discussed the newer challenges that are faced by South Asia. Mr. Sheehan said that other terrorist outfits, including Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami, and the Hizbul Mujahideen, continue to operate freely in Pakistan and also support various terrorist activities in India.

In a statement dated July 9, 2003, to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Rohan Gunaratna (head, terrorism research, Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies, Singapore) condemned terrorist outfits by saying that, "in Pakistan, a dozen attacks have been conducted by Al Qaeda through individual members of Jaish-e-Mohommed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harakat-ul-Jihad-I-Islami, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, and Harakat-ul Mujahidin."


Several anti-terrorism analysts are of the opinion that HUJI is a much bigger organization than what most people believe it to be. HUJI has always kept a low profile, and not much is known about its members and other activities. Unlike other militant organizations such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, HUJI has reportedly avoided most media and political attention. However, the fact that HUJI is relatively less known does not necessarily make it less dangerous in nature. There are several reports that indicate that HUJI has a widespread presence in many countries, including Pakistan, India, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Central Asia, and Burma. Published data suggest that more than 650 HUJI fighters have died in battles against the Indian army in the Kashmir region. HUJI has been allegedly receiving support of the affluent religious leaders as well as businessmen in Pakistan, including the ISI, which makes its position stronger in the Jammu and Kashmir terrorism chronicle.


Web sites

South Asia Terrorism Portal. "Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami." 〈http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/jandk/terrorist_outfits/HuJI.htm〉 (accessed October 20, 2005).

Center for Defense Information. "Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami." 〈http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=2374&from_page=../index.cfm〉 (accessed October 20, 2005).

The Middle East Forum. "Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad's Stealthy Legions." 〈http://www.meforum.org/article/686〉 (accessed October 20, 2005).

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. "The Rise and Decline of Al Qaeda." 〈http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/hearing3/witness_gunaratna.htm〉 (accessed October 20, 2005).


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