An outfit claiming to be the Indian wing of global terror group al Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the Bodh Gaya serial blasts on July 7 last year, counter terror officials told HT.
This is the first instance in the country where responsibility of a terror strike has been claimed by an outfit claiming to be an associate or wing of al Qaeda.
The letter named the outfit as Jamat al-Tawhid wal-Qisas (the organisation of monotheism and retaliation) — a probable reference to Jamat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which was the previous name of al Qaeda in Iraq.
"Almost a month after the Bodh Gaya serial blasts in Bihar, the press information bureau (PIB) office in Patna received a hand-written letter sent by an outfit claiming to be 'Indian Islamic Wing of al Qaeda', which said that the Buddhist shrine was targeted in retaliation to atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar," said a central counter-terror official on condition of anonymity.
The letter, written in chaste Hindi, began with 'Sabhi Tarif Allah ki hai jo sare jahan ka palanhar hai aur sachcha mabood hai' (All praise is for Allah who nurtures the whole world and who is a true divine) and then went on to claim that the group has targeted one of the most important 'forts' of Buddhism.
Terming the 26/11 Mumbai attack convict Ajmal Kasab as martyr, the letter drew references to Mushtafa Abu Yajeed (an Egyptian al Qaeda operative killed in 2010), Ustad Ahmad Farooq (al Qaeda's spokesperson in Pakistan) and Wali ur-Rehman (slain Pakistani Taliban leader).
The letter threatened BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, his trusted aide Amit Shah and President Pranab Mukherjee in particular.
"It is kind of a new manifesto of jihad in India. It also shows how the idea of jihad has seeped deep inside the Hindi heartland. We suspect it was written by Hyder Ali who allegedly raised the Ranchi-Raipur module of jihadis responsible for the Bodh Gaya strike and the Patna serial blasts during Narendra Modi's rally.
Ali was in also in touch with Indian Mujahideen operative Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu who allegedly executed the Hyderabad twin blasts in February last year," said the official.
Indian counter-terror officials have long believed that Bodh Gaya was targeted because of the growing influence of al Qaeda over Indian jihadis.
Terror outfit Indian Mujahideen's top operative Yasin Bahtkal has already revealed his Pakistan-based associates were in contact with al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan.