After decades of trying to make inroads into the disputed Kashmir Valley, global terrorist group Al Qaeda finally seems to be establishing a footprint on the Indian side. In what appears to be the earliest signs of its presence, the group’s media channels announced the formation of a new terrorist group Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, led by popular militant leader Zakir Musa.
The terror group’s affiliated media and propaganda channel, Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), on Thursday made an announcement of a new jihad movement in Kashmir. Musa, who left the command of Hizbul Mujahideen group rejecting its nationalist outlook, and called people in Kashmir to fight till death for the implementation of Shariah (Islamic laws), will lead the new group.
There were signs since 2015 that the armed militant movement was gradually undergoing a shift in ideological position, moving away from nationalistic goals of independence from the Indian Union to the religious goal of establishing an Islamic state. Burhan Wani–the former Hizbul commander who was killed in an encounter last year by Indian security forces—called the youth to join militancy for the establishment of the Caliphate. Musa, who took over Hizbul reins after Wani’s death, announced that Kashmiris should unite and fight the Indian forces, in the name of Islam. Blaming Pakistan of exploiting the conflict in Kashmir for its political goals and national interest, Musa threatened to cut the throats of Hurriyat leaders and hang them in Lal Chowk “if they don’t stop their anti-Islam and anti-Mujahideen campaign”. Following the uproar over his provocative statements against the political separatist leadership as well as the Muslim community in the rest of India, calling them shameless cowards and exhorting them to join the jihad against oppression by Hindus, Musa later quit Hizbul and distanced himself from its ideology calling it unIslamic.
From the time of Musa’s announcement to fight for Islam, there has been a visible presence of Islamic slogans, posters and flags. The green national flag of Pakistan, began to be replaced by the black Islamic flag with the shahada.
But contrary to popular notion that calls for Shariah reflected the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group gaining foothold, it has now emerged that all along it was Al Qaeda making inroads in the Valley. Shortly after his call for Shariyah ya Shahdah (Islamic rule or martyrdom), Al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent, headed by Indian-born Maulana Asim Umar, praised Musa in its Urdu magazine Nawai Afghan Jihad. Musa also thanked Al Qaeda: “I am with Al Qaeda until we are on the same path.’’
The GIMF channel, which releases the Al Qaeda group’s propaganda, released a statement announcing the foundation of new movement of jihad in Kashmir. “After the martyrdom of heroic mujahid Burhan Wani, the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening, as the Muslim nation of Kashmir has committed to carry the flag of jihad to repel the aggression of tyrant Indian invaders, and through jihad, and with the aid of Allah only, we will liberate our homeland Kashmir,” the announcement on GIMF channel read. “For this goal, a new movement of jihad has been founded by the companions of martyr Wani under the leadership of mujahid Zakir Musa.”
The announcement is significant as it is the first time that a non-Pakistan sponsored terrorist group will fight in Kashmir, that this group will be linked to Al Qaeda makes this development alarming for India. Earlier too, Al Qaeda had made attempts to wage jihad in Kashmir. In 2007, the group claimed to have formed Al Qaeda Fil’ al-Hind, or Al-Qaeda in India, calling for jihad in Kashmir for establishing an Islamic State. But barring the video announcement by a masked Kalashnikov-holding unidentified militant, there was no further activity. It later appointed Pakistani terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, a commander of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) or Harkat ul Ansar, now known as Harkat ul Mujahideen (HuM) and Brigade 313, a special unit operating in J&K as the leader of Al Qaeda in Kashmir. Kashmiri, who rose to the rank of senior commander in Al Qaeda’s central leadership, was listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist and killed in a US drone strike attack in South Waziristan in 2011. This time, however, a local Indian Kashmiri has been appointed to lead an Al Qaeda-affiliated group.
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