Al-Qaeda’s India affiliate hints at shifting focus to Kashmir
The al-Qaeda affiliate for the Indian subcontinent, which has struggled to gain a foothold in the region, has signalled its plans to focus on Kashmir and India in a special edition of its magazine following the deal struck by the US and the Afghan Taliban.
The latest edition of Nawai Afghan Jihad, the online publication of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), outlined plans to rename the magazine as “Nawai Ghazwa-e-Hind” – a move that experts said pointed to the terrorist group’s decision to focus on India, especially Kashmir.
The latest issue of the magazine, released online this week, was described as a special edition focused on the US-Taliban deal of February 29, which was referred to as a “magnificent victory”.
The 135-page magazine also carried an article titled “Kandahar to Doda: The season of hopes”, purportedly written by a Kashmiri man named Mohammed Shakir Trali, that spoke of AQIS’ efforts to strengthen its presence in Kashmir and made tacit references to last year’s revocation of the special status of the erstwhile state.
Pointing to the group’s efforts to propagate Islam in the subcontinent and wage jihad for “suppressed Muslims”, the magazine said it would be renamed as Nawai Ghazwa-e-Hind from the next edition. It also spoke of the need to retain the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan for the success of jihad in the subcontinent.
Pakistan-based terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed often invoke the concept of Ghazwa-e-Hind, or holy war against India, that they claim is derived from the “hadith” or sayings of Prophet Mohammed. However, some Islamic scholars have disputed the interpretation.
The article “Kandahar to Doda” referred to alleged “recent atrocities” in Kashmir and the killing of terrorists such as Zakir Musa, the founder of an Indian chapter of al-Qaeda called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind who was killed by security forces in Tral area of south Kashmir in May 2019.
The article claimed AQIS leaders and cadres had overcome difficulties to regroup and mobilise even as the Afghan Taliban had forced the US to “concede”. It also claimed the internet shutdown, imposed last August, had not snapped the group’s “external contacts” or “diminished public support”. The formation of AQIS was announced by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014. The group has close links with Afghan Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada. It has claimed attacks in Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Analysts have questioned AQIS’ capabilities. “Al-Qaeda first mentioned India as a target in 1996, when Osama bin Laden made a reference to Jammu and Kashmir and Assam,” said Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management. “Since then, it has not been able to achieve anything significant in both these states.”