India sounds alert over Zawahiri video

NEW DELHI: India’s Home Ministry alerted several sensitive states in the country on Thursday to be watchful of Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri’s announcement that a new branch would “raise the flag of jihad” in the Indian subcontinent, Press Trust of India said.

Reports said the government was taking the Al Qaeda announcement with “all requisite seriousness”. Senior officials in the Home Ministry said a high-level meeting was convened by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and attended by the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and the Director of the Intelligence Bureau.

PTI quoted intelligence sources as saying the government was treating the video as “genuine” and had issued “an alert across several states”. The Home Ministry has directed state police forces to formulate action plans to guard against “recruitment” for the international group.

In a 55-minutes video Mr Al Zawahiri, was seen focussing on a map of the Indian peninsula. “A new branch of Al Qaeda was established called Qaedat Al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return to Islamic rule, and empowering the Shariah of Allah across the Indian subcontinent,”Mr Al Zawahiri said in his opening remarks, which were in Arabic.

The Al Qaeda chief, believed to be struggling in a propaganda war against the equally ruthless Islamic State (formerly called ISIS) that operates out of Syria and Iraq, says in the video that the new branch would “rescue the vulnerable in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir”. The Indian Home Ministry will focus on the states in its efforts to guard against any recruitment.

Home Minister Singh, sources told The Indian Express, was informed by the Intelligence Bureau at an emergency meeting on Thursday morning that the development would have direct consequences for India. He was also told that persistent capacity deficits have made monitoring social-media based jihadi recruitment and propaganda operations difficult.

In the video, released on Twitter and jihadi websites, Mr Al Zawahiri promised the expansion of Al Qaeda operations throughout the region.

“A new branch of Al Qaeda was established and is Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad, bring back Islamic rule, and empower the shari’a of Allah across the Indian subcontinent,” he says.

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