Notorious Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorist outfit Al Qaeda’s ringleader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of an Indian branch of his militant group that would spread its terror rule and “raise the flag of takfiri ideology” across the subcontinent.
In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahiri also renewed a longstanding vow of loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in an apparent snub to the Islamic State armed group challenging Al Qaeda for leadership of transnational militancy.
Zawahiri described the formation of “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent” as a glad tidings for Muslims “in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir.”
Counter-terrorism experts say Al Qaeda’s aging leaders are struggling to compete for recruits with Islamic State, which has galvanised followers around the world by occupying some areas across the Iraq-Syria border.
ISIL leader Abu Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls himself a “caliph” or head of state and has demanded the loyalty of all Muslims.
The group fell out with Zawahiri in 2013 over its expansion into Syria, where Baghdadi’s followers have carried out beheadings, crucifixions, and mass executions.
However, while Al Qaeda is very much at home in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, due to influential contacts and a long presence there, it is a minnow compared to local militant groups in terms of manpower and regional knowledge.
Over the years Zawahiri and his predecessor Osama bin Laden, killed by US forces in 2011, repeatedly pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar, in return for the safe haven he granted their followers in Afghanistan. The statement did not mention ISIL or Baghdadi, but it appear to take a subtle dig at the group’s efforts at administering areas it has seized in Iraq and Syria.
ISIL’s effort at state-building is something never attempted by Al Qaeda’s central leaders, who traditionally have preferred to plot complex attacks on targets in the West.
Zawahiri called for unity among militants and criticised “discord” — echoing a common Al Qaeda complaint against Islamic State’s record of clashing with rival Islamist groups in Syria. The statement also warned al Qaeda’s new wing against oppressing local populations – another complaint levelled against ISIL and Al-Qaeda by critics in Iraq and Syria and rest of the world.