Written by Praveen Swami,New Delhi
September 4, 2014
September 4, 2014
In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahri also renewed a longstanding vow of loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. (source: Reuters/file)
Zawahri described the formation of "Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent" as a glad tidings for Muslims "in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam and Gujarat.
“I bring you good tidings”, al-Qaeda’s third-in-command Said al-Masri said in a macabre speech that was released online four weeks after a Hellfire missile blew his body apart near Pakistan’s Miramshah on 21 May, 2010. “Last February’s India operation was against a Jewish locale in the west of the Indian capital [sic., throughout], in the area of the German bakeries—a fact that the enemy tried to hide—and close to 20 Jews were killed”.
Now, four years on, that disembodied, incoherent boast has turned out to be prophecy.
Early on Thursday morning, Indian time, fugitive al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahari announced the formation of a new wing of the feared terrorist group dedicated to waging jihad in the Indian subcontinent.
In the videotape—the first released by the al-Qaeda chief since August 2013—al-Zawaheri promises that al-Qaeda will now expand its operations throughout the region: “Our brothers in Burma, Kashmir, Islamabad, Bangladesh”, he says, “we did not forget you in AQ and will liberate you form injustice and oppression”. The new branch, he says is in particular “a message that we did not forget you, our Muslim brothers in India”.
He says al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, “break all borders created by Britain in India”, and called on all Muslims in the region to “unite under the credo of the one god”.
The new organisation, named the Jamaat Qaidat al-jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya, or Organisation of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent, also released online manifestos written by al-Zawahiri, spokesperson Usama Mahmoud, and organisational chief Asim Umar.
Little information is available on the men who lead the new organisation, but both are believed to be Pakistani nationals serving with al-Qaeda’s command in that country. Umar has issued several manifestos and articles on al-Qaeda platforms, critiquing democracy and calling for armed jihad.
Last year, Umar issued an appeal directed at Indian Muslims: “You who have ruled India for eight hundred years, you who lit the flame of the one true God in the darkness of polytheism: how can you remain in your slumber when the Muslims of the world are awakening?” the al-Qaeda ideologue Asim Umar asked India’s Muslims last summer.
“If the youth of the Muslim world have joined the battlefields with the slogan ‘Shari’a or Martyrdom,’ and put their lives at stake to establish the Caliphate, how can you lag behind them? Why is there no storm in your ocean,” Mr. Umar demanded to know.
Experts note that the formation of AQIS comes at a time the organisation has seen significant reverses in West Asia, with the Dawlah Islamiyyah, or Islamic State, displacing its forces in large swathes of Syria and Iraq. The declaration of a Caliphate by the Islamic State was intended to signal that it now claims leadership position of the global jihadist movement—a position long held by al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has also suffered losses in funding and legitimacy among financial backers of the global jihad, who now see the Islamic State as a more credible organisation.