Qaeda invades India
Sep 04 2014
Sensitive states on high alert as terrorist outfit claims foothold
Within hours of the video’s release on Thursday morning, central intelligence agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), confirmed in a report to national security adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval that the video appeared to be genuine.
The agencies, in their situation report to the NSA, added that the “threat from al Qaeda to India was very real and imminent”. Top government sources said the NSA in turn gave a detailed briefing to prime minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh, after which subsidiary IB units in all states, as well as special branch, special cell, anti-terrorist squad and crime branch units in all state police forces were put on high alert.
Sources said all these units had been directed to update their dossiers on terror suspects and major criminals immediately, including those who are untraceable, and send these inputs to the IB on a priority basis.
The PM has also directed the NSA to immediately start working on a comprehensive blueprint to counter the al Qaeda threat to India in coordination with the home ministry and intelligence agencies. While there is so far no evidence of al Qaeda’s direct involvement in anti-terror activities in this country, there are reports that al Qaeda members and Tehreek-e-Taliban elements in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region trained some Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives.
Top intelligence sources confirmed that al Qaeda has for long planned to secure a foothold in India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. India’s security agencies are taking Al Zawahari’s video “extremely seriously”, sources said, particularly as, following the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan starting next year, both the al Qaeda and the Taliban plan to shift their focus to militancy in Kashmir.
In his first video since August 2013, Zawahari claimed that al Qaeda would now expand its operations throughout the Indian subcontinent.
“Our brothers in Burma, Kashmir, Islamabad, Bangladesh... we did not forget you and will liberate you from injustice and oppression. The new branch, Qaedat al-Jihad, is a message that we did not forget you, our Muslim brothers in India,” Zawahari added.
Both home minister Rajnath Singh and Doval had a series of meetings with senior intelligence and security officials to review security and the preparedness of anti-terror operations of key agencies. Sources said states like Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar, Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi, that have seen major terror attacks in the past and where outfits like Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) are known to have a formidable network of sleeper cells, have been asked to stay vigilant of any suspicious activities.
These states have been specifically asked to keep track of young men who have gone abroad, particularly to the Gulf, in the last few months for either work or studies. Intelligence agencies suspect that al Qaeda might try and rope in such youngsters for terror activities in India. Al Qaeda, sources said, feels its global presence is getting diminished in the wake of increasing influence of outfits like ISIS.
Zawahiri, in his video, said the “group will defend the vulnerable in the Indian sub-continent, in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir”. The states in mention are on high alert. “In the wake of this al Qaeda video, we will be on a higher alert. We will work closely with the central government to tackle any threat posed to the state,” SK Nanda, Gujarat’s top home department told Reuters.
Sources claim the US authorities had warned Indian agencies about the threat issued by Zawahri trying to form a branch of his militant group in India and its neighbourhood. Top officials said the al Qaeda threat is a clear indication of desperate attempts by the outfit, that is facing the challenge of trying to find a new “theatre of operations. Sources said that as of now the al Qaeda outfit that is still successfully capturing the imagination of the young, both online and in the actual theatre of operations is present in the Arabian peninsula. The sources noted that even the Anwae Alwaki-led AQAP was in disarray due to constant US drone stri kes. Al Qaeda therefore needs a new theatre of operations to remain relevant in the jihadi world, they added. Intelligence officials said that of late the core al Qaeda brass, now led by Zawahiri, had given calls for various causes of jihad, and those were followed up by affiliate groups and associates.
One of India’s concerns is that Hindu nationalist groups sympathetic to Modi have been stirring tensions in recent weeks, claiming there is an Islamist conspiracy to seduce Hindu women and convert them to Islam.
At one of the world’s most influential Islamic seminaries, Darul Uloom Deoband, an official said that extremist groups routinely try to recruit young, uneducated and poor Muslim boys as militants.
“We inform our students about the dangers faced by Islam, and rising militancy is one of the key subjects discussed in the seminary,” said Ashraf Usmani from the seminary, which is known for its conservative Muslim thought. “I can say this with confidence that no student from Deoband can be recruited by al Qaeda.”
(With agency inputs)