Terror outfit Al-Qaeda has announced the formation of an 'Indian wing,' bringing fears of radical Islamic fundamentalism closer home.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, in a video released on Wednesday by the SITE Intelligence Group, said the branch, which he called "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent' would "rescue" Muslims in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahemdabad and Kashmir, from "injustice and oppression".
"This entity was not established today but is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian sub-continent into a single entity," Zawahiri said in the video said, which surfaced ironically close to the 9/11 anniversary of the terror attacks in the US by the very outfit that was founded by Osama Bin Laden.
Warning for Modi Government
This call to "raise the flag of jihad" across the subcontinent will send bells ringing in the Modi government's headquarters, especially given that Narendra Modi is himself seen by many as a polarizing figure when it comes to the minority community. Zawahri's reference to Gujarat could very well be based on the Gujarat riots of 2002 where 1000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
The Al-Qaeda chief's mention of Burma can be seen in the light of the Muslim minority's struggle with the Buddhist community, and his focus on Assam could be based on the communal violence of last year that displaced thousands of people.
In the whole of India, Muslims constitute 15 percent of the population, making it the third-largest Muslim population in the world.
The Al Qaeda leader has vowed that the new wing will work towards eliminating "artificial borders" dividing the umma (the Muslim nation) across the Indian subcontinent. He declared Asim Umar, the chief of Al Qaeda's Shariah Committee for Pakistan, as the leader and Ustadh Usama Mahmoud as the spokesman for the new wing.
In the recent months, authorities have been concerned about growing radicalization of Indian Muslim youths across the country, and the news of a Mumbai youth who purportedly joined the Islamic State being killed in Iraq raised concerns of the strong impact of the group on youth.
Snub to Islamic State?
The increasing global attention to the ruthless Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, may not have gone down too well with Al Qaeda, which the terror chief made discreetly evident in the nearly one-hour video.
The terror group's public support to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar also indicates 'politics' and 'competition' among transnational terror groups for dominance, as it is seen to be a snub to the newsmaker Islamic State in the Middle East. The IS is, in fact, a faction of Al Qaeda itself, but has grown apart since 2013 due to its brutal expansionist policy in Syria and Iraq.
According to Reuters, counter-terrorism experts believe that Al Qaeda's ageing leaders are struggling to compete for recruits with the recently formed Islamic State, which has been famously able to attract youth from across the world, including the United States, Canada, and India.
Zawahri and his predecessor Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US forces in 2011, have repeatedly pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who in turn has promised them a safe haven in Afghanistan.