Washington, July 14: Al-Qaeda with its cells mostly in afghanistan is now getting more stronger and active in the Indian subcontinent and by 2017, it boasted several hundred members, counter-terrorism experts have told the US lawmakers.
"By 2017, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent boasted several hundred members and had cells in Afghanistan's Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Paktika, Ghazni, and Nuristan Provinces. Al- Qaida's presence in Afghanistan was almost certainly larger and more expansive than five or even ten years before," said Seth G Jones, a strategic expert.
He was speaking during his Congressional testimony before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on Thursday.
This expansion, Jones said, may have been partly due to taliban advances in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda's relationship with operatives from the Taliban and other groups, such as Tehreek-e-Taliban pakistan and Lashkar-e Jhangvi.
"Al-Qaeda operatives in Bangladesh were particularly active, conducting a range of attacks. In addition, al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent conducted a steady propaganda campaign from its media arm As-Sahab," he said.
However, the group conducted few attacks in Afghanistan or Pakistan and was largely irrelevant in the Taliban-led insurgency, Jones said.
In September 2014, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had announced the creation of regional affiliate al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, taking advantage of sanctuaries in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
"A new branch of al-Qaeda was established, Qaeda al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad. And return the Islamic rule across the Indian subcontinent," al-Zawahiri had said.
The group was led by Asim Umar, an Indian and former member of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, a Pakistan-based terrorist group with branches across the Indian subcontinent. Umar was flanked by Abu Zar, his first deputy.