9:54 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Al-Qaida’s India wing: New outfit may be drawn from IM, SIMI

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NEW DELHI: This is neither the first time that al-Qaida is threatening an India-centric jihad nor is it news that Indian jihadists are coming together with those in Pakistan and Bangladesh under the al-Qaida umbrella.

It is in this context that Indian security agencies suspect that AQ’s new outfit, Qaedat Al Jihad alias Al-Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), for jihad in the subcontinent, may be made up of factions of IM and SIMI, Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami and elements from Pak terror groups.

“The drift away from Pakistan’s ISI, towards al-Qaida has been on among Indian jihadists for some years now. It’s possible that al-Qaida has raised a consortium of these willing jihadists,” an Indian intelligence officer said. Though al-Qaida has referred to India since the late 90s, alarm bells began ringing this June when al-Qaida released a video in which it directly referred to Kashmir for the fi rst time and called for Jihad in the region. The video spoke of a “caravan” of “heroic martyrs” coming from Afghanistan to “liberate Kashmir”.

Titled “War should continue, message to the Muslims of Kashmir”, the video had a message from al-Qaida’s Pakistan cell chief, Asim Umar. This is the same Umar who al-Qaida aamir Ayman al Zawahiri in his latest video says will lead Qaedat Al Jihad operations. Last year, Zawahiri released a set of strategic guidelines that mentioned Kashmir.

Indian outfits have been flirting with al-Qaida for long. In the late 80s, when the Kashmir militancy began, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen cadres were known to have been training in Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was active.

As a wave of terrorism swept India post-Babri demolition and the 2002 Gujarat riots, many youth travelled to Pakistan and areas bordering Afghanistan. Though post-9/11 al-Qaida had great ideological pull across the world of jihad, Indians started gravitating towards the outfit only in the past couple of years. IM operatives such as Bada Sajid, Mirza Shadab Baig and Dr Shahnawaz Alam are suspected to be working for al-Qaida in Afghanistan. IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal has travelled to Afghanistan to establish liaisons with al-Qaida and Taliban. Patna blasts accused SIMI-operative Haidar Ali apparently learnt bomb making from al-Qaida’s online magazine ‘Inspire’.

Conversations of IM operatives such as Yasin Bhatkal, Riyaz, Baig and Asadullah Akhtar, intercepted by agencies, have revealed their desire to fight alongside al-Qaida. Baig and Akhtar last year discussed getting al-Qaida to release a video calling for jihad in India for greater impact. That wish was granted on Wednesday.

AQIS will be led by Maulana Asam Umar, a breakaway Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader who reportedly authored the book: ‘The Army of Anti-Christ: Blackwater’, which reportedly documents alleged American atrocities in Islamic Countries.

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