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Al-Qaeda Leader Announces New India Branch

Michael Johnson

In a new video, al-Qaeda announced the establishment of Qaedat al-Jihad or al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. The new organization comes as rival Islamist groups, including Islamic State (IS), have gained attention from graphically violent operations in Iraq and Syria. Analysts say al-Qaeda is trying to remain relevant as IS makes territorial advances and has released video of the executions of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Ayman al-Zawahri, head of al-Qaeda, delivers a statement in a video released Thursday. (Screenshot: AP)

In the hour-long al Qaeda video, current leader Ayman al-Zawahri said the terrorist organization would take back land “occupied” by unbelievers. Al-Zawahri also explained that “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,” suggesting extremists have already established roots in the region. He said that Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, and India would be the primary targets of the “revived” caliphate under Sharia law. Terrorist organizations have already targeted India; most notably, ten gunmen assaulted a series upscale and Western targets in Mumbai in 2008, killing more than 160 people. Wednesday’s development will likely help fighters coordinate large scale attacks.

The new terrorist group is expected to draw members from neighboring Pakistan but also from aggrieved Muslim minority groups in each country. The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation, have long been subject to harassment and economic oppression by the country’s junta. Similarly in India, Hindu nationalism and the economic disenfranchisement of Muslims could also be recruiting points for radicals. However, according to The New York Times, these groups are more likely to be loyal to local jihadist outfits rather than the Wahhabi movement followed by most Arab and Pashtun extremists.