NEW DELHI (AP) — Promising to "storm your barricades with cars packed with gunpowder," al-Qaida
announced Thursday it had created an Indian branch that the terror network vowed would bring Islamic
rule to the entire subcontinent.
The announcement by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri brought few signs of increased security in India
even after the government ordered states to be on alert. Instead, al-Zawahri’s announcement by online
video appeared directed more at his own rivals in the international jihad movement, analysts said.
"This is really very personal," said Fawaz Gerges, a Middle East expert at the London School of
Economics. "You cannot understand this announcement without understanding the fierce rivalry
between Islamic State and al-Qaida central."
Al-Qaida has been increasingly overshadowed by the Islamic State group, a renegade al-Qaida offshoot that
was expelled amid internal divisions and which has gone on to capture vast territory in Syria and Iraq,
including oil wells and other income-generating resources, and has inspired thousands of fighters to
join its jihadist mission. Al-Zawahri, in turn, has found his own influence pale beside that of Islamic
State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In India, where terror threats have largely come from Pakistan and Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region
where al-Qaida’s influence is thought to be minimal, many derided the creation of the group — Qaedat
al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent — as a publicity stunt.
Al-Qaida "is struggling for its legitimacy in the eyes of the radicalized Muslim world," said
Ajai Sahni, a top Indian security analyst with the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.
"Osama bin Laden has been killed and (al-Qaida’s) entire top leadership, apart from Zawahri and a
few others, one by one have been decimated by the American drone attacks," he said. "This
statement is meaningless."
But Gerges noted al-Qaida has long tried to nurture as many cells as possible, using affiliates in places
like Yemen and East Africa to take pressure off relentless American attacks on its core operations in
Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India, with its badly underfunded and desperately ill-trained security infrastructure, can also be a
tantalizing target for terrorists. In 2008, a small group of Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai,
India’s financial hub, effectively shutting down the city for days and killing 166 people. Al-Qaida,
meanwhile, which was behind the 9/11 attacks in the United States, has long proven itself to be a
"The problem is not these threats," said Sahni. "The problem is India’s
Al-Zawahri said the new group "is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the
mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity," adding it would fight for an Islamic
state and laws across the region, "which was part of the Muslims’ territories before it was
occupied by the infidel enemy."
While al-Zawahri’s statement referred to the "Indian subcontinent" — a term that most commonly
refers to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — his comments were widely seen as directed at India, a
predominantly Hindu nation that still has more than 150 million Muslims.
In an audio recording released with the video, the leader of the new group, Essam Omar, said that Jews
and Hindus — who he referred to as "apostates of India" — "will watch your destruction by
your own eyes."
Fighters will "storm your barricades with cars packed with gunpowder," Omar said, decrying what
he called the region’s "injustice toward Muslims."
Until recently, India had largely seen itself as beyond the recruiting territory of international
jihadists like al-Qaida. Over the past few months, however, the Islamic State group has grown in
prominence in India, and has gained at least a handful of followers here. Last month, an Indian
engineering student who had traveled to Iraq with friends, and who was thought to have joined the
Islamic State, was reported killed.
A spokesman for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the statement was "a matter of serious
concern. But there is nothing to worry about."
AP writers Ashok Sharma and Nirmala George in New Delhi and Adam Schreck in Dubai contributed to this
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