Al-Qaeda Declares New Branch in India
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on Wednesday announced the formation of an Indian branch of his terrorist group, Reuters reported.
The Al-Qaeda leader declared the new branch would spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across the subcontinent.
In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahiri also renewed a longstanding vow of loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in an apparent snub to the Islamic State group.
Zawahiri described the formation of "Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent" as a glad tidings for Muslims "in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujurat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir" and said the new wing would rescue Muslims there from injustice and oppression.
Counter-terrorism experts say Al-Qaeda's aging leaders are struggling to compete for recruits with Islamic State, which has galvanized young followers around the world by carving out tracts of territory across the Iraq-Syria border.
Islamic State leader Abu Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls himself a "caliph" or head of state and has demanded the loyalty of all Muslims.
The group fell out with Zawahiri in 2013 over its expansion into Syria, where Baghdadi's followers have carried out beheadings, crucifixions, and mass executions.
According to Reuters, Zawahiri’s statement on Wednesday warned Al-Qaeda's new wing against oppressing local populations - another complaint leveled against Islamic State by critics in Iraq and Syria.
"If you said that you are doing jihad to defend the sanctities of the Muslims, then you must not transgress against them or their money or honor, and not even transgress your mujahideen brothers by word and action," he said.
"Discord is a curse and torment, and disgrace for the believers and glory for the disbelievers," Zawahiri said. "If you say that by your jihad you do not want but the pleasure of Allah, then you must not race for governance and leadership at the first opportunity."