Al-Qaeda looks east, branches out to Indian subcontinent
The information was conveyed in a video message that the Islamist extremist movement posted on Wednesday. The footage, which was found in online jihadist forums by the SITE terrorism monitoring group, said Al-Qaeda would fight to revive the caliphate.
“We want Islam to return to the Indian subcontinent, which was part of the Muslim world before it was invaded. It will serve Muslims in Burma, Kashmir, Gujarat, Bangladesh, Ahmedabad and Assam,” Zawahiri said in the video, according to the New Delhi Television Ltd.
Islam is the dominant religion in Bangladesh, while India and Burma both have sizeable Muslim populations.
Zawahiri goes on to say that “establishing Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent is the result of two years of work to unify the Mujahideen. The rise of this new branch demonstrates that jihad under the leadership of Amir of Believers, Mullah Omar [head of the Afghan Taliban] is expanding.”
The new group will be called “Qaedat al-Jihad” and will be led by Asim Umar, while Ustad Usama Mahmoud will be the branch’s spokesman. The main goals of the new off-shoot are to establish sharia law and free all “occupied Muslim lands” on the Indian sub-continent.
In June, Al-Qaeda reportedly released a video calling upon Muslims in Kashmir to follow the example of Iraqis and Syrians and revolt against the authorities. Kashmir has been the center of a dispute over territory between India and Pakistan since the 1947 Indo-Pakistani War.
This is for the first time that the Al-Qaeda has specifically targeted Kashmiris in the video that is titled “War should continue, message to the Muslims of Kashmir,” the Guardian reported.
Al-Qaeda has long had a strong hold in Pakistan due to the country’s porous borders with Afghanistan, where the terrorist organization was initially established. The country also harbored Al-Qaeda’s former leader, Osama bin Laden, who moved between various locations in the North Western Frontier Province.
Osama’s family spent the last six years of his life at a compound in Abbottabad, just minutes away from Pakistan’s elite military academy. Osama was shot dead by US Navy SEAL commandos in May 2011.
Al-Qaeda has been under pressure since the death of Bin Laden and is now facing a serious threat in Syria and Iraq from its breakaway faction Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS. Al-Qaeda announced last year that it had split with ISIS, citing its brutality towards Muslims and its declaration of an Islamic caliphate across Syria and Iraq.