Al Qaeda’s bid to leak Islamist jihad into South Asia

Islamist terrorist group Al Qaeda is trying to inflame communal passions in South Asia by circulating a video that targets the secular fabric of India.

The outfit released a video that contains a communal rant by Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri who tries to whip up frenzy among Indian Muslims with his skewed and dangerous interpretation of a running controversy in the country over some Muslim school girls insisting on wearing the ‘hijab’ to class.

The issue is being dealt with internally by the country’s executive and judiciary without any communal controversies. The Al Qaeda attempt is squarely an incursion into India’s internal affairs for its nefarious ends and calls for a renewed operation to decimate the Islamist terror outfit.

In the video, the alleged terror group leader, Al-Zawahiri, tries to allege that the handling of the ‘hijab’ incident is a mockery of democracy. He tries to draw the Indian Muslims into his poisonous vortex by hailing the school girl, writing a poem about her, and calls the incident as a “tool” to oppress Muslims.

The Islamist terrorist uses the video as an opportunity to drive a wedge between peoples of various faiths in South Asia and Africa, using religious tools to foment rebellion.

Significantly, the terrorist says the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh do not “defend us” and instead “defend the very enemies that they have empowered them to fight against us”.

This statement is a clear give-away of the terrorist’s growing worry that his outfit is failing to expand its area of operations and is, therefore, trying to destabilise the region through such antics. According to reports from the UN Security Council, the terrorist and his group are lodged in some of the mountain ranges in Afghanistan and have patronising links the ruling Taliban of that country. Their running feud with Islamic State of Khorasan has weakened the Al Qaeda and it has been trying desperately to expand to South Asia and Africa for the last few years.

The Print, an Indian news website, says: “Al-Zawahiri’s last India-focussed video had been released in 2014, to announce the formation of the Jamaat qaidat al-jihad fi’shibhi al-qarratal-Hindiya, or Organisation of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent. The organisation was led by Asim Umer, an Uttar Pradesh-born, Deoband-educated seminarian, who had left for Pakistan in 1995. Umer is believed to have been killed in a United States military raid in Afghanistan’s Musa Qala in 2019.”

In the 2014 video, the terrorist leader talks about his plans for a South Asian wing of his group. Even earlier, the terrorist repeatedly tried to instigate Muslim groups against India.

As The Print notes: “In spite of al-Zawahiri’s efforts, however, al Qaeda had had little success in building operational capabilities in India. Last summer, though, United Nations’ sanctions monitors reported that al-Qaeda’s South Asia wing remained active in Afghanistan, under Taliban protection.”

The Security Council said Al Qaeda of the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has around 200-400 fighters. “(Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) retains a presence in Afghanistan, in the provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimruz, Paktika and Zabul, where the group fought alongside the Taliban against the ousted government.”

The report says the terrorist group managed to make inroads into western Africa while it has largely failed to intrude into South Asia or East Asia. “Both Indonesia and the Philippines reported significant gains in countering threats from ISIL and Al Qaeda affiliates in the South-East Asia region, leading to an overall decline in terrorist activity and some optimism that the operational capability of the groups may be significantly degraded.”

The Middle East Institute published a research paper by international terrorism analyst Asfandyar Mir in 2020 titled, “Afghanistan’s Terrorism Challenge: The Political Trajectories of Al Qaeda, The Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State”.

The paper said Al Qaeda might use its capability for regional operations against India and China. “AQIS’s charter emphasises targeting of US interests and citizens in South Asia as a key objective”. It says “AQIS also works closely with TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) in Afghanistan”.

With reference to India, the report says: “Al Qaeda in general and AQIS in particular devote substantial energy to highlighting alleged Indian excesses in Kashmir”. The report states without any ambiguity that “Al Qaeda may consider using Afghanistan for its Kashmir plans, most likely independently, but maybe in tandem with Pakistan-aligned jihadist groups, like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba”.

With the terrorist leader once again trying to drag in India into his terror scheme, the focus of the international community shifts back to Afghanistan, specifically the assurance given by the Taliban to keep a distance from terror groups like Al Qaeda and not allow them to use Afghanistan as a base for their operations against other countries. Several United Nations reports have said that since coming to power in Afghanistan last, the Taliban has given no time frame in which it will fulfil the promises.

The Al Qaeda’s latest video is clear evidence that the terror group is operating smoothly from inside Afghanistan and that makes the Taliban squarely responsible and answerable for the terror group’s dangerous activities.




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