Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent

FormedSeptember 3, 2014
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackSeptember 2014: AQIS claimed responsibility for the assassination of Brigadier Fazal Zahoor, a senior official in the Pakistani army. (3 killed, 9 injured)
Last AttackMay 12, 2015: AQIS claims credit for the assassination of Ananta Bijoy, a secular Bangladeshi blogger. (1 killed, 0 wounded)
UpdatedJanuary 11, 2016

Narrative Summary

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is an Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization founded on September 3, 2014. [1] [2] The group’s formation was announced in a video released by AQ Central, in which Al Qaeda leader Aymenn al-Zawahiri declared that this new Pakistan-based AQ-affiliate would oversee expanding AQ operations in Pakistan as well as India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. [3] [4] [5] Zawahiri also pledged that the group would recreate the Islamic caliphate that once stretched into these regions, which has led many analysts to attribute AQIS’s formation to an attempt by AQ to reclaim control of the Global Jihadi movement from the Islamic State (IS). [6] According to Zawahiri, AQIS is the culmination of an over two-year effort to “gather the mujahedeen in the Indian Subcontinent into a single entity.” [7]  Despite this claim, however, it remains unclear which, if any, existing militant organizations contributed fighters to the formation of AQIS.  

AQIS has largely been unable to gain traction outside of Pakistan and has been largely unsuccessful in carrying out large-scale attacks of the type anticipated by AQC leadership. Although the group has carried out assassinations of Pakistani military officials and anti-Al Qaeda bloggers, it has yet to carry out a major attack on Indian soil. [8] This may be in part because of the general hostility of Indians, including Indian Muslims who account for roughly 13% of the country’s population, towards radical jihadist ideologies, especially when they originate from India’s traditional rival, Pakistan.  The group has faced a different problem in Bangladesh, where the hardline Islamist terror group Hefazat e-Islam has monopolized local extremism and has pledged to deny AQIS a foothold in the country. [9] AQIS has even begun to experience difficulties in Pakistan, where it has not carried out an attack since October 2014.  U.S. drone strikes and the Pakistani military’s Operation Zard-e-Azb, which was launched in late 2014 to combat militant extremism in Pakistan’s tribal regions, have decimated AQIS’s ranks. According to the U.S. and Pakistani militaries, over 50 AQIS members have been killed in U.S. or Pakistani strikes since September 2014. [10] Only recently in May 2015 did AQIS recapture the international spotlight when it threatened Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a video it released via AQ’s publicity wing, As-Sahab. [11]

Leadership

  1. Shahid Usman (Unknown to December 12, 2014): Usman is believed to have been one of the top AQIS commanders in Pakistan. Before joining AQIS, Usman was a member of the Pakistani terror group Harkat ul Jihad al Islami. He was captured by Pakistani authorities on December 12, 2014.[12]
  2. Mawalana Mainul Islam (Unknown to July 2, 2015): Mainul was the chief AQIS coordinator in Bangladesh. He and his chief advisor, Mawlana Zafar Amin, were arrested by Bangladeshi authorities on July 2, 2015.[13]
  3. Mawlana Zafar Amin (Unknown to July 2, 2015): Amin was the chief advisor to the AQIS coordinator in Bangladesh, Mawalana Mainul Islam. Both were arrested by Bangladeshi authorities on July 2, 2015.[14]
  4. Sheikh Asim Umar (September 3, 2014 to Present): Umar, who is believed to be of Indian origin, has been the Emir of AQIS since its formation in 2014. Prior to this appointment, he is believed to have been an active member of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), the head of AQ’s Shariah committee for Pakistan, and a member of AQC’s core leadership.[15]
  5. Usama Mahmoud (September 3, 2014 to Present): Mahmoud is the official spokesman of AQIS. He is believed to be of Pakistani descent.[16]
  6. Imran Ali Siddiqi (September 3, 2014 to October 11, 2014): Siddiqi, also known as Haji Walijullah, was active in Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen (HuM) before becoming a member of AQIS’s shura council. He was killed on October 11, 2014 by a U.S. drone strike.[17]
  7. Qarri Imran (September 3, 2014 to January 5, 2015): Imran was an AQIS Shura council member, where he headed the Khorasan committee before being killed by a U.S. drone strike on January 5, 2015. [18]
  8. Ahmad Farouq (September 3, 2014 to January 15, 2015): Farouq was the deputy Emir of AQIS prior to his death in a U.S. airstrike in North Waziristan, Pakistan on January 15, 2015. Farouq was an American citizen, who had studied at the International Islamic Institute in Islamabad before being named as the head of AQ’s preaching and media branch in Pakistan and eventually as the deputy Emir of AQIS. [19]

Ideology & Goals

Given that AQIS is an affiliate of AQ and was formed directly by AQ leader Aymenn al-Zawahiri, the ideology of the group is presumed to be similar to that of Al Qaeda Central (AQC), which espouses a salafi-jihadist and vehemently anti-western philosophy. [20]

According to al-Zawahiri and Asim Umar, the goals of AQIS are to initiate violence against the U.S., free Indian Muslims from persecution, establish Shariah law across South Asia, revive the Islamic Caliphate in the Indian Subcontinent and defend Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban against foreign aggression. [21] [22] In pursuit of these goals, the organization claims to have united the mujahedeen across the Indian Subcontinent into a single entity. [23] Many observers have also speculated that the group has another, tacit purpose: to send the message to the global jihadi community that AQ will not be eclipsed by the Islamic State (IS) and that rather than fight their fellow Muslims, the mujahedeen should unite together against the U.S. and the west. [24]

Size Estimates

There are no known estimates of AQIS’s size.


Designated/Listed

AQIS is not designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., UN, or EU.

Resources

AQIS is believed to receive its funding and other resources directly from AQ central.  It has no known autonomous sources of revenue.  [25]

External Influences

AQIS is believed to draw fighters from several Pakistani terrorist groups, many of which have cordial relationships with the Pakistani government.  However, it is unknown whether AQIS itself has relations with the Pakistani government. [26]


Geographical Locations

According to Zawahiri, AQIS is comprised of various terrorist organizations originally from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.  Although based in Pakistan, the group has threatened to undertake operations in Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, in addition to in Pakistan. [27] [28]

Targets & Tactics

Little is known about AQIS’s tactics, although it has vowed to target U.S. and U.S. aligned personnel in the Indian subcontinent, the secular governments of the region, and any who speak out against jihad or the establishment of Shariah Law in the Indian Subcontinent. [29]


Political Activities

AQIS has no known political activities.


Major Attacks

  1. September 2014: AQIS claimed responsibility for the assassination of Brigadier Fazal Zahoor, a senior official in the Pakistani army. (3 killed, 9 injured).[30]
  2. September 6, 2014: AQIS militants attempted to attack several U.S. warships after hijacking a Pakistani military frigate. The attack failed and the hijackers were apprehended. (1 killed, 0 wounded).[31]
  3. September 18, 2014: AQIS assassinated Dr. Mohammad Shkil Auj, who was a liberal scholar at the University of Karachi, where he was the dean of Islamic Studies. (1 killed, 0 wounded).[32]
  4. February 26, 2015: AQIS militants killed Avijit Roy, an atheist Blangadeshi-American Blogger living in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Between February and May 2015, AQIS killed three other secular Bangladeshi bloggers. (4 killed, 0 wounded).[33]
  5. May 12, 2015: AQIS claims credit for the assassination of Ananta Bijoy, a secular Bangladeshi blogger. (1 killed, 0 wounded).[34]

Relationships with Other Groups

AQIS has purportedly drawn fighters from a variety of Pakistani militant groups.  [35] Although AQIS leadership has not named these groups explicitly, AQIS’s emir, Asim Umar, and its late shura council member Imran Ali Siddiqi were closely linked to Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen (HuM) before becoming AQIS leaders. AQIS is also connected to Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh, which some sources believe is an AQIS affiliate. [36]  However, generally AQIS has had trouble recruiting support in Bangladesh because Hefazat e-Islam has largely monopolized the support of radicalized Bangladeshi Islamists and sworn to deprive AQIS of footholds in the country. [37] 

AQIS has a close relationship with AQ Central, from which it is believed to receive most, if not all, of its funding and resources.  Because of its affiliation with AQ Central, AQIS is assumed to have positive relations with AQ’s other affiliate organizations, although no proof of this has been discovered. [38] AQIS has also pledged allegiance to Omar Mullah, the former head of the Afghan Taliban. [39]

Community Relationships

Although AQIS has carried out several attacks in Bangladesh, it has generally had trouble recruiting support in Bangladesh because Hefazat e-Islam, another militant Islamist organization, has largely monopolized the support of radicalized Bangladeshi Islamists and sworn to deprive AQIS of footholds in the country. [40]  The group has also had problems recruiting in India. This may be in part because of the general hostility of Indians, including Indian Muslims who account for roughly 13% of the country’s population, towards radical jihadist ideologies, especially when they originate from India’s traditional rival, Pakistan. [41] 


References

  1. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  2. ^ Bennett, Elizabeth. “A comeback for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent?” Foreign Policy Journey, 12 May 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  3. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  4. ^ Bennett, Elizabeth. “A comeback for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent?” Foreign Policy Journey, 12 May 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  5. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  6. ^ Barry, Ellen. “Al Qaeda Opens New Branch on Indian Subcontinent.” The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  7. ^ Bennett, Elizabeth. “A comeback for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent?” Foreign Policy Journey, 12 May 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  8. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent says attacks on ‘blasphemers’ ordered by Zawahiri.” The Long War Journal, 3 May 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.
  9. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  10. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  11. ^ “Al Qaeda’s Indian wing targets PM Narendra Modi, says he called for Muslims to be ‘burnt alive.’” Zee Media Bureau, 6 May 2015. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
  12. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  13. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. “Two top leaders of Al Qaeda Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) nabbed.” Bdnews24, 2 July 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  14. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. “Two top leaders of Al Qaeda Indian Sub-continent (AQIS) nabbed.” Bdnews24, 2 July 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  15. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. Bennett, Elizabeth. “A comeback for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent?” Foreign Policy Journey, 12 May 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  16. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  17. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  18. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  19. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  20. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  21. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  22. ^ Bennett, Elizabeth. “A comeback for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent?” Foreign Policy Journey, 12 May 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  23. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  24. ^ Barry, Ellen. “Al Qaeda Opens New Branch on Indian Subcontinent.” The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  25. ^ Barry, Ellen. “Al Qaeda Opens New Branch on Indian Subcontinent.” The New York Times, 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  26. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  27. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  28. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  29. ^ Bennett, Elizabeth. “A comeback for al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent?” Foreign Policy Journey, 12 May 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  30. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent says attacks on ‘blasphemers’ ordered by Zawahiri.” The Long War Journal, 3 May 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2015. Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3
  31. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  32. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent says attacks on ‘blasphemers’ ordered by Zawahiri.” The Long War Journal, 3 May 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2015. Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3
  33. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent says attacks on ‘blasphemers’ ordered by Zawahiri.” The Long War Journal, 3 May 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2015. Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3
  34. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent says attacks on ‘blasphemers’ ordered by Zawahiri.” The Long War Journal, 3 May 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2015. Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3
  35. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  36. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  37. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  38. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  39. ^ Chandran, Anurag. “Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent: Almost Forgotten.” Critical Threats, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
  40. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
  41. ^ Olmstead, Jordan. “The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch.” The Diplomat, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

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