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Al-Qaeda has the intent to hit, but remains a non-starter in India

By Vicky Nanjappa
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    New Delhi, Aug 14: The Al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent has failed to gain much traction since it was set up in 2014. While it has an ideological intention to strike India, it does not have the required capability.

    There are a host of factors that have ensured that the AQIS was a non-starter in India. First and foremost, it did not find the desired space in a crowded terror market dominated by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

    Al-Qaeda has the intent to hit, but remains a non-starter in India

    Moreover its key affiliates, the Students Islamic Movement of India and the Indian Mujahideen are down in the dumps as a result of which it failed both on the recruitment and logistic front.

    Further when the AQIS was set up in India, it had ample competition from another global outfit, the Islamic State. The ISIS was able to capture the imagination among a large number of Muslim youth and gained the traction it was looking for.

    A UN report said that that the AQIS is relatively isolated owing to increased security measures within the wider region, but the group continues to seek security gaps for opportunistic attacks.

    Lacking in numbers:

    The group is "ideologically inclined to carry out attacks inside India but its capability is believed to be low, it said, adding that according to Member States, the strength of AQIS in Afghanistan is estimated at several hundred people, located in Laghman, Paktika, Kandahar, Ghazni and Zabul provinces.

    Noting that Al-Qaida still maintains a presence in South Asia, the report said the terror group adapts to the local environment, trying to embed itself into local struggles and communities and is closely allied with the Taliban.

    According to one Member State, although the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, poses an immediate threat, Al-Qaeda is the intellectually stronger group and remains a longer-term threat.

    The report added that some members of the Al-Qaeda core, including Aiman al-Zawahiri and son of slain al-Qaida terrorist Osama bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden are reported to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas.

    Other members of the Al-Qaeda core may leave for more secure areas, it said.

    Also Read | New offshoots of Al-Qaeda, ISIS banned in India

    The ISIS:

    The report said that between 20,000 and 30,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Iraq and Syria and among these there is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters.

    One Member State reports that some recent plots detected and prevented in Europe had originated from ISIL in Afghanistan. In addition to establishing a presence across Afghanistan, ISIL also attempts to have an impact on other countries in the region.

    "According to one Member State, ISIL in Afghanistan is responsible for at least one attack in the Kashmir region, the report said. However, no details about the attack in Kashmir were given in the report.

    The sanctions monitoring team submits independent reports every six months to the Security Council on the Islamic State, al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities.

    Also Read | Al-Qaeda makes fresh push to revive outfit in India

    The report added that in Afghanistan, ISIL persistently tried to expand its presence, despite pressure from the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, the international coalition and the Taliban.

    ISIL currently has its main presence in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, and is also active in Jowzjan, Faryab, Sari Pul and Badakhshan provinces in the north. The group has the intention to expand into Ghazni, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar and Uruzgan provinces.

    In Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad, ISIL already has sleeper cells and has committed disruptive, high-profile attacks, including against both Government and Taliban targets during the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire, it added.

    The report noted that that ISIL has between 3,500 and 4,000 members in Afghanistan, including between 600 and 1,000 in northern Afghanistan (with both numbers on the increase). It is led by Abu Sayed Bajauri who is not listed and the majority of its members and leaders were formerly members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and it may represent an emerging threat to Central Asian States.

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