Al Qaeda opens branch in the ‘Indian Subcontinent’

Al Qaeda has announced the establishment of a new branch, called “Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent.” The group reports to Mullah Omar, the head of the Afghan Taliban, and is led by a former commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who also served as a sharia official in al Qaeda’s branch in Pakistan. The ultimate goal of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent is the same as al Qaeda’s: to establish a global caliphate and impose sharia, or Islamic law.

As Sahab, al Qaeda’s official media outlet, released a lengthy video promoting the creation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent today. The video, which was published on various Internet video sites, including YouTube, features Ayman al Zawahiri as well as Asim Umar, the new emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and Usama Mahmoud, the group’s spokesman. The video was translated by the SITE Intelligence group.

“A new branch of al-Qaeda was established and is Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return the Islamic rule, and empowering the Shariah of Allah across the Indian subcontinent,” Zawahiri says in the opening of the video, according to the translation by SITE.

Zawahiri says the group was years in the making, contains “soldiers of the Islamic Emirate” (a reference to the Afghan Taliban), and ultimately reports to Mullah Omar.

“This entity was not established today, but it is the fruit of a blessed effort for more than two years to gather the mujahideen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity to be with the main group, Qaedat al-Jihad, from the soldiers of the Islamic Emirate and its triumphant emir, Allah permitting, Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid,” Zawahiri says. Zawahiri renewed his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar in a statement that was released in July of this year. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda renews its oath of allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar.]

“It is an entity that was formed to promulgate the call of the reviving imam Sheikh Usama bin Laden, may Allah have mercy on him, to call the Ummah to unite round the word of Tawhid [monotheism], to wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty, and to revive its Caliphate,” Zawahiri continues in the video.

Zawahiri says the group will defend the “vulnerable in the Indian subcontinent, in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujurat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir …” and “your brothers in Qaedat al-Jihad did not forget you and that they are doing what they can to rescue you from injustice, oppression, persecution, and suffering.”

Emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent served previously as Taliban commander

The creation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and the promotion of Asim mar highlights the close ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda routinely fights alongside both Taliban groups against the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

Al Qaeda has promoted Asim Umar as the emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. Umar was featured in several propaganda releases by As Sahab in the past two years. He was previously identified by al Qaeda as a commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, a jihadist group closely linked to al Qaeda, in a video released by As Sahab in July 2013.

In the video, Umar called on Indian Muslims to participate in the “global jihad to give a final push to the collapsing edifice of America.”

Umar also identified the US as a prime enemy and said “lives are being sacrificed in this jihad to defeat America and its allies everywhere.”

He focused on the growing jihad in Syria, and said that “[a]fter Iraq, the black flags of Khorasan are heading for Syria.” The Khorasan is a region in Asia that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is considered a key battleground by al Qaeda.

Umar also indicated in that speech that al Qaeda was integrating with other jihadist groups and traveling to Syria to fight.

“Al Qaeda and other Mujahideen have taken the leadership of this movement in their own hands,” he said. “Several groups have gone to Syria from Afghanistan and are leading the Jihad there.” [See LWJ reports, and Pakistani Taliban leader discusses ‘global jihad,’ Syria in al Qaeda video and Pakistani Taliban establish ‘base’ inside Syria.]

In an “open interview” with Umar published in April 2014, he was identified as al Qaeda’s top sharia official in Pakistan. [See Threat Matrix report, Social Media Jihad: Open interview with al Qaeda’s sharia official in Pakistan.]

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent is the newest branch of the global jihadist group. The last group to officially join al Qaeda was the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant in April 2013. In January 2013, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, merged with the global terror group. Both Shabaab and the Al Nusrah Front were secretly part of al Qaeda before formally announcing their allegiance. [See LWJ reports, Shabaab formally joins al Qaeda, and Al Nusrah Front leader renews allegiance to al Qaeda, rejects new name.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Birbal Dhar says:

    This is Al Qaeda’s publicity stunt. As the world is focusing on IS, Al Qaeda is desperate for attention and are using this stunt to galvanise muslim support in south Asia. In reality Al Qaeda will find it difficult to do attacks in India, Bangladesh or Burma, unless they are given help by the Pakistani ISI, who have camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir for islamic terrorists to infiltrate into the Indian side and also agents in Indian cities to strike. Pakistan have got too many problems of their own to increase terrorist attacks on the Indian populace,especially because of pressure from America and also high rates of islamic terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Although Pakistan would still like to attack India, which they do regularly on the Line Of Control, they know that India will fight back and America would also add economic and political pressure on Pakistan to reduce tensions between the countries.

  • Arjuna says:

    I hope you’re right when you say: “Pakistan have got too many problems of their own to increase terrorist attacks on the Indian populace”. I am not sure that retired officers like Hamid Gul and his henchmen think about the economy, human rights or any other Pakistani “problems” when they plan and execute operations like Mumbai. Pakistan’s biggest “problem” is its “deep state” some of whom are allied with Al Qaeda.
    Besides announcing a new front (South Asia), I think Zawahiri will engage in what I call “operational outbidding” with Baghdadi. It was very smart to ignore IS. That gives him room for maneuver and allows them to concentrate on attacks. I bet Zawahiri and his PK allies will attack India soon (in a major city, not in Kashmir) in an attempt to cause war between Pakistan and India. It was only through maximum restraint that India avoided this messy state of affairs in late 2008. Will Modi show the same restraint?

  • Arjuna says:

    Let’s not forget (if Yasin Bhaktal is to be believed) that there was a 2014 attempt by the Indian Mujiahideen to obtain a nuclear weapon from PK and use it on the Indian city of Surat. I’m afraid this announcement means that the non-jailed members of IM are falling under AQ directly and thus availing themselves of AQ’s financial backers in the Gulf and attack expertise. If the ISI throw in too and help them obtain a nuclear weapon, then Syraq could look like a sideshow overnight and the “right group” (Al Qaeda Core, who swear fealty to ISI asset Mullah Omar) will have scored a bigger hit faster than even what’s his name over in Syraq.

  • Alex says:

    Seems to me this is basically Al Qaeda giving up the fight against the West. Or at least round about acknowledging defeat. They are no longer relevant either internationally or locally in the muslim world.
    It’s not that their ideology has been refuted, just the opposite. It’s that they have been physically reduced to uselessness. IS has taken all their thunder and now controls actual territory. Al Qaeda is unable to strike the West in any serious way and now spends their days hiding from drones.
    It seems to me they are basically giving up the international game and instead are going to immerse themself in the Central Asia game to try and carve out territory and make themselves locally relevant.
    Doesn’t mean they are not a threat or that we should stop hunting them, just a confirmation that AQ itself, the organization founded by Bin Laden is basically on the sidelines. Even if we face severe threats from other groups that share theology.

  • My impression is that al Qaeda’s announcement is just a formality.
    Thanks to Saudi Arabia’s financial and ideological support and led by Pakistan, the jihad enterprise has been building up in India for the past 30 years (details in my book).
    I do believe that the threshold to launch jihad all over India, while basing extremists in Muslim communities has been crossed.
    As I have consistently said, Indian jihadists and Pakistan will not allow Modi to focus on development.
    Jihad will visit India soon, whether Indians want it or not!

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    Arjuna, terrorist attacks in Pakistan due to their creation of Frankenstein islamic monsters by the Pakistani ISI, plus the American drones, have forced the Pakistani army and it’s ISI wing to divert money used to do terrorist attacks in India to trying to protect the Pakistani Army from being massacred by the islamic frankenstein terrorists. This has resulted in less terrorist attacks in India. India has to be thankful to America for bombing Pakistani targets with drones, otherwise there would have been major terrorist attacks in India every year. America has made islamic terrorists in Pakistan attack their own creators (the ISI). It’s like seeing 2 horrible snakes (Pakistani Taliban and the ISI) fighting each other. And it’s a great sight to see as well !! The Pakistani Taliban terrorists indirectly have done India a favour by forcing the Pakistani army to divert anti-Indian resources to protecting their own asses and bases, where they are attacked by this group. Thank God for America, they’ve really helped India to limit the islamic terrorist cancer from Pakistan.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    You do realize that al Qaeda’s branches control territory in Yemen & Somalia today? They just haven’t declared an Islamic State, because they believe it is premature & harmful to do so too quickly. From 2011-2012, AQAP controlled much of southern Yemen; it lost major cities and towns in Shabwa and Abyan, but still controls rural areas in those two provinces and in others. From 2012-2013, AQIM/Ansar Dine/MUJAO controlled much of northern Mali. From 2009 to present, Shabaab controls much of southern Somalia (it has been ejected from the major cities but controls much of the countryside.
    So jihadist groups controlling turf is nothing new.
    The Islamic State is the shiny object that has caught everyone in Short Attention Span Theater’s attention. Except the islamic State used to be known as the Islamic State of Iraq, which used to be known as al Qaeda in Iraq, and it controlled large areas of Iraq from 2004-2007…

  • This is a direct result of 4 Mumbai youths travelling to Syria and one of them getting 4 more are caught in Bangladesh border trying to go to Syria and are from Hyderabad of India. It is now known that Al queada owning allegiance to Mullah Omar and this latest video shows that the wing in ISI which controls them are now gaining strength. As alex has said these guys have failed to target America and routinely loud mouth America and Israel but are impotent to attack them as shown in the recent Gaza conflict.These guys know it is easy to get some poor Muslim youth to do their bidding in India without much effort and may be they will target Bangalore or some other surrounding area which will please the ISI.

  • Arjuna says:

    Birbal Dhar, thanks sir for the informative answer, with which I completely agree. We don’t want to mow the lawn in someone else’s yard, but we can’t have tiger mosquitoes either. I do NOT think this is posturing or desperation or a last move, guys. They (AQIS) are going to try something audacious. Deeds not words applies hard when your rival is on a roll. Goodness, IM are in Nepal. TTP have killed climbers in PK. Bringing South Asia baddies under the mother adds cachet and professionalism. When are we going to stop underestimating this enemy? When they control an area the size of… Russia? Keep your guard up RAW. Coincidence Surat is in Modi’s state? Just a short boat ride from Karachi.

  • akash kumar swain says:

    we hate Isis and also Isis’s member if you try to enter India , Indian army punished you so don’t try

  • James says:

    @Birbal Dhar,
    Birbal, thank you for thanking US.
    Now, if we here in the US can get together with a nation such as India and combine our intelligence gathering capabilities, I believe it would go a long way in minimizing the pAQ threat.
    What I think is needed most is a combined intelligence gathering capability between US, India, Great Britian and numerous other free and democratic nations.

  • VR says:

    James, Birbal
    I agree 100% that USA, India, Israel and other major free democracies need to work together, sharing intelligence, providing logistics and cross training the special ops teams. This is imperative to control and roll back the advances of IS and AQ.
    They need to carryout out covert actions against the motivators, organizers and resource providers (both men and money) and neutralize them wherever they are, even if they are in multiple countries.

  • Fred says:

    Well, they got what they wanted. They got us talking about them again.


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