The US state department on Thursday named al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) a “foreign terrorist organisation” and designated its leader, India-born Asim Umar, a “specially designated global terrorist”.
These designations prohibit American citizens from dealing with both the group and its leader — usually for donations — and lead to forfeiture of property and assets held by them in the US.
Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of AQIS in 2014. In a 55-minute video launching the group, Zawahiri had said it would launch jihadist activities in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Umar is formerly of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which too has been designated a foreign terrorist organisation.
The 38-year-old was born as Sana-ul-Haq at Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh between 1974 and 1976, and graduated from the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband in 1991. Umar later travelled to Pakistan, where he studied at the Darul Uloom Haqqania in Nowshera, a seminary dubbed as the “university of jihad” because it has produced many militant commanders.
The state department said in the announcement, “AQIS claimed responsibility for the September 6, 2014 attack on a naval dockyard in Karachi, in which militants attempted to hijack a Pakistani Navy frigate.
The attack left a Pakistani officer and three attackers dead, while seven sailors were wounded as the militants attempted to hijack the warship.
“AQIS has also claimed responsibility for the murders of activists and writers in Bangladesh, including that of US citizen Avijit Roy, US Embassy local employee Xulhaz Mannan, and of Bangladeshi nationals Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, Ahmed Rajib Haideer, and AKM Shafiul Islam.”
The state department said, “Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that AQIS and Umar are actively engaged in terrorism.
“Designations of terrorist individuals and groups expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and result in denial of access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist or complement the law enforcement actions of other US agencies and other governments.”
(With inputs from agencies)