News / Asia

India on Alert After Al-Qaida Announces Local Branch

In this image taken from video, Ayman al-Zawahri, head of al-Qaida, delivers a statement in a video which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, released Sept. 4, 2014.
In this image taken from video, Ayman al-Zawahri, head of al-Qaida, delivers a statement in a video which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, released Sept. 4, 2014.
Anjana Pasricha

Al-Qaida has launched a group in the Indian subcontinent, targeting India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. But security analysts see India as the main target.

Indian intelligence agencies issued alerts across the country hours after al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, threatened to raise the flag of “jihad” and spread Islamic rule on the Indian subcontinent.

In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahiri said al-Qaida’s new unit in the subcontinent would rescue Muslims from injustice and oppression in the Indian states of Gujarat, Assam and Kashmir, and in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Sambit Patra, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, called al-Qaida’s plans to push its terror outfit in the subcontinent a serious concern.

Patra says India has a very strong government, and it will take strict action on the issue.

India’s Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, met with top security officials to discuss the threat.

Security analysts see al-Qaida's apparent new push as an effort to enhance its diminishing clout, as it loses ground to jihadist group Islamic State, which has gained influence in Syria and Iraq.

The announcement could pose a challenge to India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has already faced criticism for remaining silent about several incidents deemed anti-Muslim while he was chief minister of Gujarat state.

Meanwhile, security and police officials have been told to be vigilant about any efforts at large-scale recruitment of young Muslims by the terror group.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

All three Indian states mentioned in the video have sizeable Muslim populations. Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state and has witnessed a violent separatist insurgency. In Assam, bordering Bangladesh, Muslims have been the victims of violence by tribal communities in recent years. Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is believed to have been on the radar of Islamist militant groups since 2002 when it was wracked with religious riots.  

In Myanmar, also known as Burma, a senior official from the president’s office warned that terrorists might try to instigate a recurrence of religious violence in the country. He told VOA that the government is committed to cooperating with the international community on fighting global terrorism, and has been on alert and taken security measures.

But security experts say that more than Myanmar and Bangladesh, al-Qaida’s call for “jihad” is directed at India - a Hindu majority nation which is home to about 175 million Muslims - the world’s third largest Muslim population.

India has long coped with sectarian tensions and numerous attacks by Islamist militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba.

However Ajai Sahni, at the Institute of Conflict Studies in New Delhi, says he does not regard al-Qaida's plans to establish a unit in South Asia as an extraordinary threat. He points out that Islamist militants have been active in India for years.

“Any realignments of the forces can create potential difficulties. But these shifts are only marginal. We have been fighting these same people for decades now. So I don’t see this as something that is transformatory," Sahni said.

Security analysts see al-Qaida’s plans to push into South Asia as an effort to enhance its diminishing clout as it loses ground to another jihadist group, Islamic State, which has gained influence in Syria and Iraq.    

VOA Burmese Service correspondent Khin Soe Win contributed to this report from Yangon.

*In an earlier version of this story we incorrectly reported that PM Narendra Modi was the governor of Gujarat state.


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Comment Sorting
by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
September 04, 2014 11:35 AM

Ayman al-Zawahiri's call for an Al Qaeda chapter in India is the last gasp of a dying beast. H e was outclassed by the ISIS in Middle East, and endorsed the Al Nusra Front in Syria, but Al Nusra rejected his endorsement and it is holding 41 U.N. peacekeepers in South Syria demanding that it is taken off the list of "Al Qaeda associated terrorist groups list" to release them. The Syrian Islamic Front also wants nothing to do with him either!

Al- Zawahiri is, therefore, trying to resuscitate an Al Qaeda on its death-bed by exploiting some inter-rivalries between Indian Muslims and Hindus. But those rivalries are more cultural and cast related than they are religious, with religion taking the blame for. Sorry, Ayman, but you are at a dead-end in India!
Nikos Retsos, retired professor

by: meanbill from: USA
September 04, 2014 11:04 AM
US President Obama and US vice-President Biden both "quote" repeatedly said;.. "Bin Laden is dead, and the world is a safer place"... and "quote" assured Americans, "Al-Qaeda is on the run, and their leadership has been decimated."... (and the WISE MAN said it), I do believe Al-Qaeda and affiliates are running through Asia, Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, and heading for Europe and then the Americas?.... Al-Qaeda and affiliates are running towards, and not from, their enemies?

The whole Islamic world has erupted in chaos, violence, destruction and wars that never seem to end, (started mostly by US and NATO interference), and they haven't a clue on what they caused, and therefore can't have, or find, a solution in solving the problem, can they?..... really?

by: vis8 from: New Jersey
September 04, 2014 10:41 AM
Obama, Cameron and India should learn from Sri Lanka, how to handle terrorism and defeat it. Instead, they have sided with the refugee diaspora and refuse to accept Sri Lanka's victory: they have only 'discrimination' and 'rights violations'.... to talk about.

Get the terrorists before they can start in India. Soon there will be cries of 'rights violations' etc...., but India has never seen terror like Sri Lanka has.

by: Mehtasaab from: Washington, DC
September 04, 2014 10:24 AM
Only one way we can get rid of them is to unite together against them. All western world, Israel and India can clean them up.

They are the enemies of "Peace and Love". They don't want to live peacefully. If NATO and Pentagon will not make decision regarding the inclusion of Israel and India against this fight, they will expand very fast.

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