Does al-Qaeda still exist in the sub-continent?

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A year has gone by since the al Qaeda in the sub-continent (AQIS) was announced. The question today is whether this outfit still exists or not. The announcement was made by Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video message a year ago and it had declared that it would set up the Islamic Caliphate in the sub-continent.

However, today the AQIS is a non-entity in the region and the only presence it can boast of is at Bangladesh where piggy backs on the Ansarullah Bangla Team or the ABT. Security experts say that the AQIS never seemed lethal and the announcement by Zawahiri was more out of desperation after the al-Qaeda had lost substantial ground in Iraq and Syria to the ISIS.

al qaeda

Does the AQIS exist?

There is a shadow of doubt on whether the leader of the al-Qaeda, Zawahiri is alive or not. In the month of September 2014, he gave out a video message. However his last few messages have been audio clips which has raised the suspicion among many whether he is alive or dead.

Let us take a look at the organizational structure of the AQIS. The core committee comprised 5 members while the regional committee had 3. Now out of the 8 members of both the regional and core committee, three are dead and two are arrested while the other three wanted.

The AQIS was headed by Asim Umar. He continues to exist in Pakistan but has shown no signs of any resurgence. Ahmed Faroq, the deputy leader, Qari Imran and Imran Ali Siddiqui the Shura council members are dead. Shahid Usman and Maniul Islam, the commanders of the AQIS in Karachi and Bangladesh have been arrested.

This would mean only Asim Umar, the chief of the AQIS, Usma Mahmood, the spokesperson in Pakistan and Abdullah Ashraf, the Bangladesh spokesperson are still alive. Effectively only three members of the core committee are functional. Moreover the AQIS has not made any major announcement regarding replacing the leaders it has lost in the past year.

Playing second fiddle:

The AQIS has been playing second fiddle to the ABT in Bangladesh. The ABT and the AQIS have been responsible for a series of murders and have threatened to implement the law of Sharia in Bangladesh. They have tried making attempts to enter into states such as Assam and West Bengal, but have largely been unsuccessful.

The real agenda of the AQIS was to set up an Islamic Caliphate in the sub-continent with Afghanistan as its base. However the AQIS has not been able to lend much support to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Moreover the ISIS has strategically made friends in Afghanistan and is threatening the Taliban on its own turf.

The ISIS is also looking to take over from the AQIS and the ABT the battle in Bangladesh. The ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of an Italian aid worker. However this could just be a claim to test the waters, security experts say. There is no real presence of the ISIS in Bangladesh as yet. However they would make attempts in the days to come, security experts also point out.

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