Indian forces kill spokesman for al Qaeda group in Kashmir

Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’s Al Sindh Media released this image of Abu Ubaidah after his death.

Indian forces killed the spokesman for Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH) during an operation on June 26. Shabir Ahmad Malik (also known as Abu Ubaidah) was intially a member of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), but he defected to AGH, becoming a mouthpiece for the upstart al Qaeda group.

Al Qaeda has been poaching from Pakistani-backed jihadist organizations such as LeT. Al Qaeda’s goal is to create an independent jihadist presence in Jammu and Kashmir — one that is not beholden to the Pakistani state’s interests.

Abu Ubaidah’s death was first reported by pro-AGH Telegram channels shortly after he was killed on June 26. AGH subsequently confirmed his death in a statement released today. The message was posted online with an English translation.

AGH congratulates the people of Kashmir, India and the entire Subcontinent on the “martyrdom” of Abu Ubaidah and several other jihadis who were killed in recent counterterrorism operations.

Abu Ubaidah (Malik) was “martyred” while “fighting the polytheistic army,” AGH’s statement reads.

AGH lists the others killed as: Ahmad Mir (Arsha ul Haq), Hafiz Azad Ahmad Khanday (Samiullah Haq), Suhail Yousuf Bhat (Huzaif ul Haq) and Rafee Hassan (Imaam ul Haq). These “brothers attained martyrdom on” June 23 “while fighting the polytheistic army of India.”

AGH’s Al Sindh Media posted this banner dedicated to the group’s “martyrs” on June 24.

The jihadists single out “Shaheed Arshad ul Haq and Shaheed Abu Ubaidah” for extra praise, saying the pair “stood for the slogan of Shariyat or Martyrdom even while facing numerous difficulties and hardships and became the firm part of independent Jihad.” These “martyrs have enlightened the path of Haq by their blood, which was earlier laid down by Shaheed Ameer Zakir Musa Rahimahullah.”

Zakir Musa was the first leader of AGH. He, too, was killed by Indian forces during an operation on May 23.  Musa waged jihad under the slogan “Sharia or Martyrdom” — the same phrase mentioned in AGH’s obituary for Abu Ubaidah and others. The intent behind these to expose the supposedly nationalist goals of the Pakistani-backed groups fighting in Kashmir.

Musa originally belonged one of those organizations, Hizbul Mujahideen. But he ultimately ended up criticizing Hizbul Mujahideen’s leaders, claiming they were beholden to the Pakistani state’s interests.

Abu Ubaidah followed the same path as Musa. Both pro-AGH Telegram channels and a local police official report that he initially belonged to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), which is supported by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, but also has ties to al Qaeda. The UN recently reported that LeT has a significant contingent fighting under the Taliban’s banner in Afghanistan and its men are also working in “close cooperation” with al Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Abu Ubaidah (above) eulogized Zakir Musa and announced his successor in early June.

Abu Ubaidah’s career on the main jihadi stage was short-lived. In early June, he released an audio recording in which he announced Musa’s death and said Abdul Hameed Lelhari had been named the new emir of AGH, with Ghazi Ibrahim serving as the deputy emir. That was Abu Ubaidah’s last recording for the public.

After Musa’s death, al Qaeda advertised its endorsement of AGH and incited Muslims to wage jihad in Kashmir. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Al Qaeda eulogizes Zakir Musa, as his successor is named.]

Pro-AGH social media accounts also recently indicated that a jihadist from Kashmir had joined Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and died fighting in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

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

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