Al Qaeda opening branch in India
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
- Al Qaeda issues lengthy video on its mission in Indian subcontinent
- Leader of al Qaeda says he seeks to “wage jihad”
- Analysts say al Qaeda is struggling for followers as ISIS gains support
(CNN) — In a 55-minute long video, al Qaeda announced it will launch a new branch in the Indian subcontinent.
Speaking in the video, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said the purpose is to “wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty, and to revive its Caliphate.”
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Al-Zawahiri also said he seeks to gain support “for the vulnerable” in Myanmar and Bangladesh; in the Indian states of Assam and Gujarat; and in Kashmir, the disputed region between India and Pakistan. He called for “rescue” from “injustice, oppression, persecution, and suffering” in these areas.
Some analysts view al Qaeda’s announcement as an indication they’re struggling for followers as ISIS gains support in the global Islamist movement.
Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst called the video “hyperventilation and posturing.”
“It’s al-Zawahiri’s obvious way of getting some of the limelight back,” he said as ISIS has moved front and center.
The Indian government is trying to confirm the video’s authenticity, said Amarendra Tiwari, an official with India’s Ministry of Home Affairs. The security alert has been issued in parts of India, although details were not given.
The al Qaeda video is unlikely to win over constituents, said Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, about the India announcement.
“They are losing a lot of constituents to the Islamic State,” he said. “They’re trying to show their global reach as an organization, but I’m not sure of exactly what sign they are trying to send.”
If ISIS undermines al Qaeda, “it’s going to affect funding,” said Ajit Singh, senior fellow at South Asia Terrorism Portal in New Delhi. The radicalized Muslims are more likely to fund ISIS.
“That’s why al Qaeda is trying to increase its influence,” he said. Singh says it’s not al Qaeda’s first time trying to gain a foothold in India.
India, a predominantly Hindu nation, has a 13% Muslim population, according to the country’s census. Inter-religious relations have become tense before. In 2002, Gujarat was wracked with anti-Muslim violence, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
Most of the world’s Muslims live in Asia, with about 1 billion in Asia-Pacific and about 322 million in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the Pew Research Center.
The style of al Qaeda’s latest video also highlights a stylistic difference with ISIS, which are often shot in the light during daytime, noted Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst.
“Al-Zawahiri’s video is boring, talking into the camera,” he said. “ISIS videos are well-edited and dynamic.”
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CNN’s Ravi Agrawal, Chieu Luu and Sugam Pokharel contributed to this report.