Al-Qaida to begin jihadist operations in India

BY Andrew Troast  September 4, 2014 at 12:59 PM EST

Video by Associated Press

Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video Thursday, proclaiming the establishment of a new branch of the terrorist organization in India.

In the 55-minute video, al-Zawahiri claimed the group will begin jihadist efforts on the subcontinent, which he states, “was once part of the land of Muslims, until the infidel enemy occupied it and fragmented it and split it.” Al-Zawahiri didn’t limit his vision to India, making an ovation to Bangladesh, Burma, Assam and other nations with large Muslim populations, saying they were not forgotten and that al-Qaida is “doing what they can to rescue you.”

Indian officials confirmed the authenticity of the video Thursday, and the government has issued security alerts to law enforcement throughout the country. According to the video, the Indian branch of al-Qaida has been in the making for more than two years.

The release of the video is being widely viewed, the Associated Press reported, as an effort by al-Qaeda to attract more constituents and attention after having been largely overshadowed by the Islamic State, IS, an offshoot of al-Qaida, in recent months. In the video, al-Zawahiri asks for cooperation among jihadist groups. He did not directly mention IS, but claimed that discord between militant jihadists is a “glory for the disbelievers.”

It is uncertain how serious of a threat al-Qaida militants could potentially pose in India. Historically, the group has had little success recruiting Indian Muslims, and the subcontinent lacks the local conflicts that attract fighters, the AP reported. India’s population is predominantly Hindu with about 13 percent Muslim inhabitants.

India has had some incidents of inter-religious violence before. Most recently, in 2002, religious riots in Gujarat claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, most of whom were Muslim. At the time, Gujarat was led by Narendra Modi, now the prime minister of India.