NEW DELHI — Al-Qaida has released a video announcing the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent, saying it is meant to revive jihadist activity in a region that was once “part of the land of Muslims, until the infidel enemy occupied it and fragmented it and split it.”
In the 55-minute video posted on jihadist forums, al-Qaida’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, addresses listeners in parts of the region with large Muslim populations, assuring Muslims in Myanmar and Bangladesh; in the Indian states of Assam and Gujarat; and in the Kashmir region that “your brothers” in the militant organization “did not forget you and that they are doing what they can to rescue you.”
In recent months, al-Qaida’s emerging competitor, the Islamic State group, has begun to recruit Indian Muslims, and some analysts viewed the video announcement as a response. The new entity, Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, represents the network’s fifth official branch, adding to branches based in North Africa, in East Africa, in Yemen and in Syria.
Mr. Zawahri said it had taken more than two years “to gather the mujahideen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity” but did not mention smaller groups that might be affiliated. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online, said the video was posted Wednesday.
Indian news outlets reported Thursday that the country’s Intelligence Bureau had verified the video’s authenticity and had alerted police officials across the nation to a heightened threat.
Sambit Patra, spokesman for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, called the announcement “a matter of serious concern.”
Al-Qaida, which has been weakened by military and economic pressure in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has not traditionally recruited heavily in India or conducted major attacks there. Instead, its ideological focus has been on driving out a “far enemy” — the United States and its allies — from the Middle East. Analysts say its leaders may be wary of a conflict with the Indian region’s huge Hindu population.
But the Islamic State, a Sunni network that split from al-Qaida last year, has been recruiting Indian Muslims this summer. In his address, Mr. Zawahri does not refer to the Islamic State, but he does call for unity among jihadists, saying, “Discord is a curse and torment, and disgrace for the believers and glory for the disbelievers.”
Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst at Flashpoint Global Partners, a New York security consulting firm, called the message “a serious counternarrative to the ISIS expansion,” referring to the Islamic State.
“Al-Zawahri is establishing an antithesis to ISIS and its ideology, a message to mujahideen to unify together, not kill Muslims and kill each other, and keep the focus of the attacks on Western powers,” Mr. Alkhouri said in a written reply to questions. “In other words, maintain the original al-Qaida goals.”Asia - Middle East - India - South Asia - Al-Qaida - Narendra Modi - New Delhi - Ayman al-Zawahri - Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant