Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) may be a new branch of the global terror group, but at least one of its primary aims is the same as the rest: to target the United States.
Following words from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a spokesperson for the new group said in a video released online this week that one of the its first goals is “waging jihad against America and the system of global disbelief that grew under its sponsorship…”
“This is the system that put upon worshipers of Allah a political system built on non-religious, democratic, secular principles, and weakened the Islamic creed and corrupted Muslim society,” the spokesperson says, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. “And because of this system, apostate, traitor armies were put upon the Islamic lands and the rulers hostile to Islam.”
The announcement of AQIS’s establishment came as much of the Western world was focused on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terror group that recently split from al Qaeda’s control, went on to take over large swaths or Syria and Iraq and then declared itself the Islamic State – an apparent direct challenge to al Qaeda’s authority.
Zawahiri, who had a public falling out with ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did not directly reference his new rival’s success in his portion of the new video, but spoke about the unity of Muslim fighters, a possible glancing reference to the splinter group.
Elsewhere in his AQIS pronouncement, Zawahiri referenced Burma, Bangladesh, Kashmir and others as locations where “your brothers… did not forget you.”
Approximately 400 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2013 in India, according to the START program, which the State Department said demonstrated that the world’s largest democracy “continued to be one of the most persistently targeted countries by transnational and domestic terror groups” – about half those deaths attributed to attacks to the Communist Party of India. Other violence in Kashmir and Jammu, the State Department says, have been linked to “transnational terrorist groups that India alleges are backed by Pakistan.”
The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center recognizes one major terror group as operating in the area, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), an organization with close links to Pakistan that is also believed to have been behind the Mumbai massacre in 2008. That attack claimed the lives of more than 160 people.
Before the addition of AQIS, al Qaeda “core” situated in Pakistan has recognized major affiliates approximately in North Africa (AQIM), Somalia (al-Shabab), Yemen (AQAP) and Syria (al-Nusra).