Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri declared in a video message that to bring back Islam movement to India, Al Qaeda was launching a new off-shoot in the subcontinent. In almost an hour-long video posted in jihadi forums, Zawahiri declares the formation of Qaedat al Jihad for the Muslims across India saying it will crush the "artificial borders" dividing the umma (the Muslim nation) across the Indian subcontinent, reported the SITE monitoring agency.
"We want Islam to return to the Indian subcontinent, which was part of the Muslim world before it was invaded. It will serve Muslims in Burma, Kashmir, Gujarat, Bangladesh and Assam", Zawahiri said in the video that went viral on internet.
The new branch of Qaeda will have Asim Umar, Al Qaeda's chief of Shariah Committee for Pakistan, as the leader and Ustadh Usama Mahmoud will be its spokesman.
What prompted Al Qaeda launch a new wing in India?
Following Osama Bin Laden's death, Al Qaeda was loosing its popularity in the Asian sub continent. The rise of ISIS and similar jihadists in middle-east and Africa has put Al Qaeda under pressure. Experts, however, are seeing the Islamic extremist organisation's venture in India as an attempt to reclaim its title as the global jihadi group.
The Afghanistan-based terror group has been overshadowed ever since Abu Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took control of a large part of Iraq. ISIS, an Al Qaeda off-shoot has not only gained control of hundreds of square miles of area in the oil-rich Iraq. The ISIS has declared caliphate in the areas under it and became world's most dreaded Islamist group in such a short span of time.
By carving out tracts of territory across the Iraq-Syria border and carrying out beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions, ISIS has galvanised young followers around the world. Youths from countries like India, Pakistan, US, UK and Africa are joining ISIS.
On the contrary, ageing leaders in Al Qaeda, which cut all ties with ISIS in February 2014 after a power struggle, are struggling to compete for recruits with ISIS.
Baghdadi calls himself a 'caliph' or head of state and has demanded the loyalty of all Muslims, this perhaps isn't going down well with Al Qaeda.
ISIS - a threat to Al Qaeda?
Though security agencies couldn't take this new wing lightly, but experts are of the view that Zawahiri's video is more like gathering potential recruits from Indian subcontinent who are now joining ISIS.
As per an Indian Express report, experts note that the formation of AQIS comes at a time the organisation has seen significant reverses in West Asia, with the Dawlah Islamiyyah, or Islamic State, displacing its forces in large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The declaration of a Caliphate by the Islamic State was intended to signal that it now claims leadership position of the global jihadist movement-a position long held by Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has also suffered losses in funding and legitimacy among financial backers of the global jihad, who now see the Islamic State as a more credible organisation.
Thus, Zawahiri's intention are clear, he wants al-Qaeda to regain the tag of top most Islamist group. AQIS in its manifesto has projected Afghanistan, not West Asia, as the centre of global jihadist struggle. It has also expressed loyalty to Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar, to whom it earlier swore an oath of loyalty.
Problems for India
However, Al Qaeda launching a new terror wing, especially for India, couldn't be ignored as well. As per intelligence agencies' reports the government has sounded alerts in several states.
The video may not have outlined any specific threat to New Delhi, but the Indian Express report notes a "gathering storm of violent Islamism in Pakistan would lash India". The report also points to a surge in Indian jihadists training abroad, the four men who allegedly left to train with the Islamic State and homegrown terror group Indian Mujahideen operatives fighting in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
IM has been rendered toothless following the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal and as per reports his confidante Riyaz Bhatkal, who is the IM chief, is unhappy with no support from Pakistan to carry out major terror operations in India. Hence, an new wing would give an opportunity for the disgruntled IM operatives join AQIS. And if this happens it will be a major threat to India's security.
India will face terrible consequences, if Indian Muslim youths heading Iraq or Syria get attracted towards AQIS and join it to carry out jihad on Indian soil.