After a year of silence, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has exhorted his “Muslim brothers” to join a newly established South Asia faction that would “defend the vulnerable in the Indian subcontinent.”
He listed Burma and Bangladesh, and specifically named three states in India ”” Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir. In disputed Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state ”” which is claimed by both Pakistan and India ”” an insurgency agitates for independence. Assam has its own separatist movement and Gujarat was the site of religious riots in which 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in 2002.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was then Gujarat’s chief minister.
Friday’s headlines in Indian newspapers reflected the general worry: “Clear and Present Qaeda Danger,” said The Times of India. “India Now In Al Qaeda sights,” wrote The Hindu.