Ayman al-Zawahri, head of al-Qaeda, delivers a statement in a video that was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, released Thursday. / AP/al-Qaeda via SITE
Al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahari released a videotape Thursday announcing plans for a new wing of the terrorist group dedicated to waging jihad in the Indian subcontinent.
"Our brothers in Burma, Kashmir, Islamabad, Bangladesh, we did not forget you and will liberate you from injustice and oppression," he said, according to a translation from The Indian Express.
The videotape is believed to be the first released by the al-Qaeda chief in more than a year.
Al-Zawahari calls on Indians to "break all borders created by Britain in India, unite under the credo of the one god."
The new organization, translated as Organization of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent, also released online manifestos written by al-Zawahiri, spokesman Usama Mahmoud, and organizational chief Essam Omar.
The group's leaders are believed to be Pakistani nationals serving with al-Qaeda's command in that country, the Express reports. Umar has issued several manifestos and articles on al-Qaeda platforms, critiquing democracy and calling for armed jihad.
Omar said that Jews and Hindus - whom he referred to as "apostates of India" - "will watch your destruction by your own eyes."
Fighters will "storm your barricades with cars packed with gunpowder," Omar said, decrying what he called the region's "injustice toward Muslims."
Omar issued an appeal to Indian Muslims last summer, translated as "You who have ruled India for 800 years, you who lit the flame of the one true God in the darkness of polytheism: how can you remain in your slumber when the Muslims of the world are awakening?"
At least three Indian states with large Muslim populations have been put on alert in the wake of the video's release, local TV stations reported, though there was no indication of an increased security presence.
While his comments raised concerns in India, al-Zawahari's message seemed largely directed at his own rivals in the international jihad movement, and with raising al-Qaeda's profile in the wake of repeated successes by the Islamic State militant group.
Al-Qaeda has been increasingly overshadowed by the Islamic State, whose fighters have captured wide swaths of Syria and Iraq and recently executed two American journalists.
Al-Qaeda "is struggling for its legitimacy in the eyes of the radicalized Muslim world," said Ajai Sahni, a top Indian security analyst with the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.
"Osama bin Laden has been killed and (al-Qaeda's) entire top leadership, apart from Zawahari and a few others, one by one have been decimated by the American drone attacks," he said.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Thursday morning with top security and intelligence officials to discuss the threat.
A spokesman for India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the statement was "a matter of serious concern. But there is nothing to worry about. We have a strong government at the federal level."
Contributing: Associated Press
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