Islamic State, al-Qaeda competing for Indian recruits

Officials monitoring social media flag ‘Kashmir centric’ posts, say both want to dominate jihadist movement globally.

Updated - December 24, 2017 11:09 am IST

Published - December 24, 2017 11:00 am IST - New Delhi

A file photo of a protest against the IS in New Delhi.

A file photo of a protest against the IS in New Delhi.

The Islamic State and Al Qaeda have been engaged in a fierce competition to promote their propaganda in India, an analysis of messages posted on social media platforms suggest.

In the past few months, both the IS and the Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have been posting several provocative messages.

A senior officer in the security establishment said the agencies were monitoring the content but were particularly concerned with the Al Qaraar media of the Islamic State that has been posting ‘Kashmir’ centric messages.

On December 3, the Al Qaraar group released a poster threatening attacks in India. An official said one of the pro-IS channels on the social media platform Telegram reached out to the Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGuH) group headed by former Hizbul Mujahideen leader Zakir Musa.

“We are surprised by this development as AGuH is an Al Qaeda-backed group. A message was posted on a secret Telegram channel by Al Qaraar appealing AGuH members to join them, when it is widely known that IS and Al Qaeda are rival groups,” said the official.

The official said in the initial stages, Al Qaraar was only advocating the Sharia (set of Islamic religious principles) but now it advocated the IS ideology. The development is being watched closely given IS losses in Iraq and Syria.

Support for Rohingya

On November 28, the AQIS released a video where its spokesperson, Usama Mahmoud, called on Muslims in “Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Kashmir” to support the Rohingya in Myanmar and asked them to seek revenge.

The AQIS was created by Al Qaeda in August 2014 and was led by an Indian, Asim Umar, who was later identified as a Uttar Pradesh resident, Sanaul Haq. Intelligence officials strongly suspect that the AQIS is being backed by the Pakistani establishment to carry out attacks in India on its pretext., a non-profit watchdog that tracks the online activities of terror groups, said the AQIS had re-branded its media approach since it was challenged by the IS.

“The AQIS terror outfit has been promoted by official Al-Qaeda media such as Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) and Al-Qaida affiliate groups like AQAP, AQIM, Al-Shabaab and others. We also see intense competition between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Both groups want to dominate the jihadist movement globally. Al-Qaeda has re-branded its media approach since the IS challenged its global domination,” an official with said. He said India was the alternative front for Al-Qaeda despite their failure to gain a foothold in the country and it has been focussing on “propaganda-centric approach.”

“These [messages] are part of an aggressive propaganda campaign to show the Al-Qaeda strength as the IS has lost almost all its territory. Al-Qaeda, however, is still struggling to win the propaganda war with the IS to show it has re emerged in strength,” the official said.

On November 17, the Amaq news agency of the IS posted a message claiming responsibility for the attack in the Zakura area of Kashmir where a State police sub-inspector was killed and a militant Mugees Ahmad were killed and a special police officer was injured. It was said to be the first attack carried out by IS in the Kashmir Valley.

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