Al Qaeda has released a video announcing the establishment of a new branch on the Indian subcontinent, saying it is meant to revive jihadist activity in a region that was once "part of the land of Muslims, until the infidel enemy occupied it and fragmented it and split it."
In the 55-minute video posted on jihadist forums, Al Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, addresses listeners in parts of the region with large Muslim populations, assuring Muslims in Burma and Bangladesh; in the Indian states of Assam and Gujarat; and in the Kashmir region that "your brothers" in the militant organization "did not forget you and that they are doing what they can to rescue you."
In recent months, Al Qaeda's emerging competitor, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has begun to recruit Indian Muslims, and some analysts viewed the video announcement as a response. The new entity, Qaedatal-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, represents the network's fifth official branch and its first in Asia, adding to branches based in North Africa, in East Africa, in Yemen and in Syria.
Mr. Zawahri said it had taken more than two years "to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity," but did not mention smaller groups that might be affiliated. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online, said the video was posted Wednesday.
Indian news outlets reported Thursday that the country's Intelligence Bureau had verified the video's authenticity and had alerted police officials across the nation to a heightened threat.
Sambit Patra, a spokesman for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, called the announcement "a matter of serious concern."
"The government will take a note of it, and surely see to it that whatever action we have to take against this will be done," he said, according to ANI, a wire service.
Al Qaeda, which has been weakened by military and economic pressure in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has not traditionally recruited heavily in India or staged major attacks there. Instead, its ideological focus has been on driving out a "far enemy" — the United States and its allies — from the Middle East. Analysts say its leaders may be wary of a conflict with the Indian region's huge Hindu population.