Slain AQIS head mentioned PM, Indian Muslims in videos

Representative image.

Asim Omar, the Uttar Pradesh-born chief of the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) who was killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan last month, is believed to have been caught the eye of terror network chief Ayman al-Zawahiri for his oratory propaganda skills and at least one of his videos had a mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Omar, whose original name is Sanaul Haq and left his birthplace Sambhal in UP in the 1990s, came prominently on Indian security agencies radar especially after Zawahiri appointed him as the chief of AQIS while announcing its setting up on September 4, 2014.

After Zawahari’s video that declared the setting up of AQIS, Indian agencies had identified Omar as an Indian though Wednesday’s tweet by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security identified him as a Pakistani national.

The Delhi Police had earlier claimed that Omar was actually Haq following the questioning of Sambhal resident Mohammad Asif and Odisha-based cleric Abdul Rehman whom they claimed were tasked by the now-dead AQIS chief to set up recruitment cells in India.

It was in a nine-minute video in May 2015 that Omar, who graduated from Deoband in UP’s Darul Uloom and later went to Karachi’s Jamia Uloom ul Islamia dubbed as ‘University of Jihad’ and Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqani in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that boasts Mullah Omar among its students, mentioned about Modi.

In the video ‘From France to Bangladesh: The Dust Will Never Settle Down’, he had said, “the battle we are waging is the same — be it against drones, the writings in Charlie Hebdo, policies of IMF and World Bank...or Narendra Modi’s blood-spitting tongue...”

The al-Qaeda widely posted Omar’s videos, which propagates the ideas of Salafi stream of Islam, on al-Qaeda propaganda websites and one in July 2013 titled ‘Why is There No Storm in Your Ocean?’ he addressed the Indian Muslims. He had then asked Indian Muslims, “how can you remain in your slumber when the Muslims of the world are awakening?”

Security analysts view the setting of AQIS as part of an attempt by the al-Qaeda to checkmate the growing influence of Islamic State (IS) and asserts its prominence in the global jihad campaign. Some others viewed the appointment of Omar, a US-designated global terrorist who has translated jihadi literature from Pashto to Urdu, as the dwindling number of Arab leaders following the operations against them.

The al-Qaeda believed that the contacts of Omar, associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, in the jihadi network in south Asia would come handy in expanding its activities.

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