NEW DELHI (AP) — Al-Qaida has expanded into the Indian subcontinent, the leader of the terror group said in a video statement released Thursday, with a united group that will “wage jihad against its enemies.”
In the video, which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, Ayman al-Zawahri said al-Qaida had been preparing for years to set up in the region.
The new group “is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity,” al-Zawahri said.
While the statement referred to the “Indian subcontinent” — a term that most commonly refers to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — al-Zawahri’s comments were widely seen as directed at India, a largely Hindu nation with a large Muslim minority.
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.”
India has been a target of Muslim extremists in the past, most notably a 2008 attack by a small group of Pakistani terrorists on Mumbai, India’s financial hub, in which 166 people were killed.
It has also waged a long-running insurgency war in Kashmir, India’s only majority-Muslim state, with militants fighting to bring independence to the Himalayan region or join it to neighboring Pakistan.