Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has announced a new branch in South Asia, and promised to “raise the flag of jihad” across the subcontinent.
In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahiri hailed the new branch as “good news” for Muslims in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujurat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir.
He went on to say the new wing would “rescue” Muslims there from injustice and oppression. He also renewed a long-standing vow of loyalty to the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.
Zawahiri’s statement did not specifically mention the Islamic State group, which has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.
But he called on the Muslim nation to revive its caliphate – seen as a snub to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has unilaterally declared a caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq.
The al-Qaeda leadership fell out with Baghdadi in 2013 when he expanded into Syria.
So is Zawahiri’s move about tactics, or an attempt to reclaim the limelight from the Islamic State?
Presenter – Hazem Sika
Shiraz Maher – senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London.
Murtaza Hussain – journalist and political commentator at the Intercept.
Ajit Singh – research fellow for the South Asia Terrorism Portal.