Al-Qaeda sets up anti-India unit; states put on alert

IB confirms video clip is genuine

Al-Qaeda sets up anti-India unit; states put on alert

The Centre on Thursday put states on high alert after al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the setting up of a dedicated wing to wage war in the Indian subcontinent by recruiting Muslims from hotbeds like Kashmir, Gujarat and Assam.

In a video clip posted on the internet, Zawahiri has announced the setting up of “Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian sub-continent”. After the Intelligence Bureau’s (IB) initial assessment confirmed it to be genuine, the Indian security establishment went into a huddle with Home Minister Rajnath Singh briefing Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Though the security apparatus was of the view that Zawahiri’s 55-minute video was a “statement of intent” as the al-Qaeda is fast losing the plot in West Asia to terrorists of the Islamic State, the Home Ministry asked the states to be on high alert as there could be attempts to recruit youths into the terrorist-fold.

“We have alerted the states, especially those which are considered to be hotspots for recruitment,” a senior Home Ministry official said. Earlier, there were reports that youths from Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and some other states were being recruited by terror outfits.

Sources said though the Bangladesh-Myanmar border is a problem area where recruitment is taking place for Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, they have not come across any large-scale recruitment in Indian states.

Zawahiri said: “The setting up of the new outfit in the Indian sub-continent would be good news for Muslims in Burma, Bangladesh and in the Indian states of Assam, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir where they would be rescued from injustice and oppression.

“This entity was not established today but is the fruit of the blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahideen in the Indian sub-continent into a single entity.” The group, headed by Pakistani terrorist Asim Umar, would report to top Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Sources said Zawahiri’s mention of places like Assam and Gujarat, where there was communal polarisation, is designed to attract radicalised youth, who are now being drawn to the Islamic State.

The al-Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan but is being upstaged by the Islamic State, whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi describes himself as “Caliph” (head of state) and has called for the support of all the Muslims around the world.

The al-Qaeda and the Islamic State fell out last year over the latter’s expansion into Syria. Experts said that the move indicates al-Qaeda’s effort to attract more followers as the Islamic State is fast gaining popularity.

The move is also seen as an effort to drum up funding. he video also came at a time when reports had claimed that some members of the Indian Mujahideen in Pakistan are breaking away from the outfit and affiliating with al-Qaeda.

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