Al-Qaeda wants to turn India into war-torn Syria and Iraq: Intelligence officials
NEW DELHI: Decrypted communications between Indian
Mujahideen (IM) and Al-Qaeda and testimony from suspects have triggered alarm
among intelligence officials in New Delhi: the groups appear to be working
together to launch major attacks in the region. The officials told Reuters that
plots they had uncovered included the kidnapping of foreigners and turning
India into a “Syria and Iraq where violence is continuously happening.”
Allegiances between Islamist militant groups can be
murky and fleeting, and providing concrete proof of operational ties is
But Indian security agencies said evidence they had
gathered pointed to growing ties between Al-Qaeda and IM, a home-grown movement
hitherto known for low-level attacks on local targets using relatively crude
weapons like pressure cooker bombs. Weeks after al Qaeda announced the
formation of a South Asia wing to strike across the subcontinent, agencies said
they had discovered IM members were training with al Qaeda and other groups in
Pakistan and Afghanistan for major attacks.
That increases the risk of a more dangerous form of
militancy in the world’s biggest democracy, which has been largely spared the
kind of violence that regularly rocks its neighbour Pakistan and, beyond it,
Security officials cite last Sunday’s deadly suicide
bombing on the Pakistani side of a border crossing with India, and a terror
alert on Tuesday at two eastern ports that forced the Indian navy to withdraw
two ships, as evidence that militant coordination and activity are on the rise.
“The thing we are looking for is how al Qaeda/ISIS
tie-up with local groups, especially as the drawdown takes place in
Afghanistan,” said Sharad Kumar, head of the NIA (National Investigation
Agency), the country’s main counter-terrorism arm.
ISIS, also known as Islamic State, has carved out
swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, but its influence over militant groups
in South Asia is believed to be limited so far.
Al Qaeda is deeply entrenched, however, with leader
Ayman al-Zawahiri believed to be hiding near the Afghan-Pakistan border and its
militants fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan. Foreign combat troops are due to
withdraw at the end of the year. Some members of IM are already fighting
alongside al Qaeda in Afghanistan, according to an Indian government
chargesheet against 11 suspected members of the group alleged to have plotted
attacks in India.
The worry is that more battle hardened fighters could
now turn their sights on their homeland. Others have enlisted with al Qaeda to
try to carry out kidnappings of Jews in India and Nepal to secure the release
of Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui, a neuroscientist jailed for 86 years in the United
States for attempting to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.