Al-Qaeda announces India wing

Dubai – Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahri on Wednesday announced the formation of an Indian branch of his militant group he said would spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across the subcontinent.

In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahri also renewed a longstanding vow of loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in an apparent snub to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) armed group challenging al-Qaeda for leadership of transnational Islamist militancy.

Zawahri described the formation of "Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent" as a glad tidings for Muslims "in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir" and said the new wing would rescue Muslims there from injustice and oppression.

Counter-terrorism experts say al-Qaeda's ageing leaders are struggling to compete for recruits with ISIS, which has galvanised young followers around the world by carving out tracts of territory across the Iraq-Syria border.

ISIS leader Abu Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls himself a "caliph" or head of state and has demanded the loyalty of all Muslims.

The group fell out with Zawahri in 2013 over its expansion into Syria, where Baghdadi's followers have carried out beheadings, crucifixions, and mass executions.

As well being an indirect repudiation of ISIS, the announcement could pose a challenge to India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi. He has already faced criticism for remaining silent about several incidents deemed anti-Muslim, underscoring fears that his Hindu nationalist followers will upset religious relations in the majority Hindi nation.

However, while al-Qaeda is very much at home in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, due to influential contacts and a long presence there, it is a minnow compared to local militant groups in terms of manpower and regional knowledge.

Safe haven

Over the years Zawahri and his predecessor Osama bin Laden, killed by US forces in 2011, repeatedly pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar, in return for the safe haven he granted their followers in Afghanistan.

The statement did not mention Islamic State or Baghdadi, but it appear to take a subtle dig at the group's efforts at administering areas it has seized in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS’s effort at state-building is something never attempted by al-Qaeda's central leaders, who traditionally have preferred to plot complex attacks on targets in the West.

Zawahri called for unity among militants and criticised "discord" - echoing a common al-Qaeda complaint against ISIS’s record of clashing with rival Islamist groups in Syria.

The statement also warned al-Qaeda's new wing against oppressing local populations - another complaint levelled against Islamic State by critics in Iraq and Syria.

"If you said that you are doing jihad to defend the sanctities of the Muslims, then you must not transgress against them or their money or honour, and not even transgress your mujahideen brothers by word and action," he said.

"Discord is a curse and torment, and disgrace for the believers and glory for the disbelievers," he said. "If you say that by your jihad you do not want but the pleasure of Allah, then you must not race for governance and leadership at the first opportunity."

Muslims account for 15% of Indians but, numbering an estimated 175 million, theirs is the third-largest Muslim population in the world.

Centuries of rule by medieval Muslim invaders drove a wedge between Hindus and Muslims. Tensions have grown since Pakistan was carved from Muslim-majority areas of India in 1947, a violent partition in which hundreds of thousands were killed.

In the era of Washington's "war on terror", some Indian Muslims have begun to sympathise more with hard-line pan-Islamic groups and causes.

Badd Pitt 2014/09/04 05:50:25 AM
Al Quaeda vs ISIS. Sounds good. Video game idea?
Andries Kopo King Shai 2014/09/04 06:03:07 AM
I don't really think these people know what they are fighting for. Its seems like everyone is at war. From Russia to USA
forest gump 2014/09/04 06:12:33 AM
While pride in what you believe is a good thing nationalism an putting the interest of one particular group ahead of others is what prevents muslim nations from standing together. While they persist in disagreeing over small issues they will never trully be able to present a united front
Mark Booysen 2014/09/04 06:13:41 AM
Why's this oke still breathing!!
Mark Booysen 2014/09/04 06:14:43 AM
Why's this oke still breathing??
Daniel Mavhungu 2014/09/04 06:30:31 AM
No wonder. Grandsons and daughters of Ishmail
Alan Yates 2014/09/04 06:31:50 AM
Just another day in the 1400 year war by Moslems against non Moslems. Maybe this particular Moslem longs for a repeat of the days when his ancestors invaded the Hindu Kush.
Michael Ndalama Mwale 2014/09/04 06:37:08 AM
I call upon my fellow Africans to start looking critically at Islam as a religion and on the activities of Muslims who seem to be flocking in from their countries on a daily basis, if we are to continue to enjoy the peace that they seem to be coming here for. We must be wary of our fellow Africans who are Muslims or are converting to Islam because these are the people who will be used to destabilise our communities by their Arab leaders. We must put the ANC under the microscope because it's corrupt leaders maybe on the payroll of Arabs, judging by its support of Hamas, who may be trying to use South Africa as a spring-board for Jihad in southern Africa. Let us be vigilante my fellow Africans, otherwise tomorrow we may find ourselves in the same situation as the countries that are now in the grip of terrorism.
Mark McDonogh 2014/09/04 06:41:03 AM
The sad thing about the Moslem religion is that the actions a Of its adherents actually reflect the nature of the "god" they promote. Imagine a "god" who would encourage hatred and war and murder and rape and killings of innocent people simply because they do not acknowledge this "god" whose values they project. Dear Moslems, please open your eyes and see how you are being deceived.
Hugo Pelzer 2014/09/04 06:51:03 AM
"...leadership of transnational Islamist militancy." Wow, that's a scary concept right there...meanwhile there are people who spend their time trying to find a cure for cancer, sustainable energy sources etc. etc.....and then you have some people longing for a return to the stone age. I wonder where it will end..