Terror recruits India

Central officials assessing impact of Zawahiri’s killing on al-Qaeda’s presence in India  

U.S. President Joe Biden meeting the national security team at the White House in Washington.

U.S. President Joe Biden meeting the national security team at the White House in Washington. | Photo Credit: Reuters

A day after the United States announced that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed in a drone strike in Kabul on July 30, Indian government officials on Tuesday said they were assessing its impact in India.

Unlike other terror groups, al-Qaeda is not an organisation-led group but is driven by a strong ideology, independent of territorial limits, an official said.

There are only 18 Indians known to have joined al-Qaeda between 2012 and 2015, said a Delhi Police official, adding that the number of persons who owed allegiance to the group was much bigger.

Five of them are in prison, while the others are absconding. G.P Singh, Special Director-General of Police, Assam, told The Hindu that since February, the police had arrested 22 members affiliated to the global terror group or were inspired by its ideology.

Mr. Singh said that over the past two years, surveillance had been mounted in Assam following reports that the Bangladesh-based Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), affiliated to al-Qaeda, was trying to scout for recruits.

“Their interrogation revealed that they were inspired by Zawahiri. However, killing of a leader always lowers the morale of the cadre and sympathisers. We are sure that we will be able to wipe out the network from Assam in the next two years,” Mr. Singh said.

In 2014, Zawahiri, in a video, announced the creation of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) to be led by an Indian Maulana, Asim Umar, who was later identified as Uttar Pradesh resident Sanaul Haq.

Haq is said to have been killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan a few years ago, but there is no confirmation yet.

In the video, Zawahiri described the formation of the AQIS as glad tidings for Muslims “in Burma [Myanmar], Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir”, adding that the new wing would rescue Muslims there from injustice and oppression.

A senior Home Ministry official said that according to recent inputs the group was trying to rebuild al-Qaeda’s organisational machinery in India. As recent as June 8, the AQIS threatened that its members would carry out attacks in India in the backdrop of the controversial statements by two BJP leaders against Prophet Muhammed. The AQIS, in a statement, called for attacks in Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

In 2015, a note generated by an intelligence agency said that the AQIS “has been attempting to recruit gullible Muslim youth from Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala and Delhi”, and that the group planned to target BJP offices, commercial, tourist, religious, aviation and railway infrastructure in various States as well as unsecured waterfronts.

The Home Ministry official said that al-Qaeda cadre in India shifting allegiance to the Islamic State was also a possibility. “Considering the field operational capabilities of Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) to mount spectacular attacks, any possible tilt from AQ ranks to IS warrants a serious attention,” the official said.

In 2017, the AQIS had released a video in which its spokesperson, Usama Mahmoud, asked Muslims in “Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Kashmir” to support the Rohingya in Myanmar, asking them to seek revenge.

According to another official, the AQIS, banned in 2018 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), was backed by the Pakistani establishment to carry out attacks in India.

In 2019, Zawahiri had for the first time released a Kashmir-centric video asking its cadres to inflict “unrelenting blows” on the Indian Army and the government in Kashmir Valley to “bleed” the economy and “make the country suffer”.

Zawahiri had, however, warned the cadre not to fall into the trap of Pakistan, which he termed as a puppet of the U.S.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2022 11:35:14 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-assessing-impact-of-zawahiris-killing-on-al-qaedas-presence-in-india/article65717531.ece