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.