Al-Qaeda wants to portray Narendra Modi as enemy of Islam: US analyst

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Sep 5 2014, 16:41pm hrs
Al-ZawahiriAl-Zawahiri had announced new branch of al-Qaeda called 'Qaedat al-Jihad' in the Indian subcontinent.
Al-Qaeda, which has announced the creation of a separate wing for India, wants to portray Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an enemy of Islam and as such India should take its threat "very seriously", a well-known American counter-terror expert said today even as the US tried to downplay the terrorist outfit's capabilities.

"This video, the first from (al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-) Zawahiri this year, should be taken very seriously. Al-Qaeda wants to portray Prime Minister Modi as an enemy of Islam," ex-CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who is considered to be one of the US' top experts on counter-terrorism, said.

"From its base in Pakistan and with its close links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaeda is a dangerous menace to India," Riedel said when asked about the latest video of Zawahiri announcing al-Qaeda's creation of a new branch for the Indian subcontinent to wage jihad in India, including in Kashmir, Gujarat and Assam with the goal of establishing a caliphate and impose sharia ranging from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

Zawahiri had announced new branch of al-Qaeda called "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent", "seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return Islamic rule, and imposing Sharia across the Indian subcontinent," in the video which was posted on various social media websites including YouTube.

Reiterating that the new Indian government should take the threat very seriously, Riedel said that New Delhi should increase its counter-terrorism co-operation with the US and Afghanistan.

After the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US has increased significantly.

The US, however, is yet verify the authenticity of the video or the creation of a new wing of al-Qaeda.

"We haven't been able to verify that yet. Obviously, we're looking to see if there's more information we can get about this here," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference.

"We also don't regard this announcement as an indication of any new capabilities by al-Qaeda," she said.

At the same time, she reiterated that the US remains committed to dismantling al-Qaeda anywhere that it poses a threat to the US and make sure that it doesn't renew its threat to America.

But many counter-terror experts like Riedel do not necessarily agree with the State Department and view this as a new threat from al-Qaeda.

"I think Al-Zawahiri's announcement of the establishment of al-Qaeda's branch for South Asia is worrying because it has come just days before the 9/11 anniversary," said Tufail Ahmad of the 'Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor' of Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

"It will keep Indian and Western intelligence agencies on tenterhooks for next several weeks. It is possible that al-Qaeda hasn't been able to do something spectacular like the Islamic State led by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and therefore is under pressure to mount a major attack. India must take this development with utmost seriousness," Ahmad said.

Having monitoring al-Qaeda activities in South Asia for some time now, Ahmad said it had been clear that something like this was coming up.

"Earlier this year, al-Qaeda's broadcasting arm As-Sahab established a dedicated media arm called 'As-Sahab South Asia' and now al-Qaeda's establishment of 'Al-Qaeda Jihad Organisation in South Asia' is part of the same continuing efforts to attract youths from India to jihadist battlefields," he said.

"Over the past year and a half, Maulana Asim Umar, who has been appointed as emir of the new al-Qaeda branch in South Asia, issued a series of videos in which he worried why Indian Muslims were not being seen in the jihadist battlefields like Syria and Yemen and he also addressed Kashmiri Muslims, asking them 'who snatched your Kalashnikovs and handed stones in your hands'," Ahmad said.