The call was released on online jihadist feeds on Wednesday, by the new al-Qaeda affiliate formed earlier this year by breakaway cadre of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Ansar Ghazwa ’tul-Hind, the Kashmir-based affiliate of transnational terrorist group al-Qaeda, has called on Indian Muslims to “join the fields of the jihad”, claiming that “perfidious Hindus will keep changing their tactics until their mission is accomplished — and that mission is the elimination of every last Muslim, be they children or the elderly, men or women, or brothers or our sons”.
The call was released on online jihadist feeds on Wednesday, by the new al-Qaeda affiliate formed earlier this year by breakaway cadre of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, in an apparent effort to exploit Muslim anger on the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
“Every Indian Muslim must prepare to leave his home for jihad,” the message says, “because the enemy is preparing for war.”
The message was read aloud by a jihadist using the pseudonym Sultan Zabul al-Hindi, whose grammar and accent suggests he is a non-native Hindi speaker. Intelligence sources said they were not aware of any individual from outside Kashmir serving with the estimated dozen-strong formation of Ansar Ghazwa ’tul-Hind commander Zakir Bhat, also known as Zakir Musa.
But the use of the term ‘Zabul’ in ‘Sultan Zabul al-Hindi’ could indicate that he is serving, or has served, in southern Afghanistan. Earlier this month, Afghan and United States forces killed Omar Mansour, one of the key deputies of al-Qaeda’s Uttar Pradesh-born Indian subcontinent chief, Sana-ul-Haq, in the course of raids targetting the organisation across its strongholds in the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni and Paktia.
General John Nicholson, the commander of United States forces in Afghanistan, revealed on November 28 that “al-Qaeda Indian subcontinent fighters who are the ones who are training a lot of the local Taliban, and in return for this the Taliban afford them sanctuary”.
Indian jihadists, including fugitive members of the Indian Mujahideen, are known to have trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, acquiring the skills needed to fabricate improvised explosive devices and operate automatic weapons.
Kerala and Maharashtra-based jihadists are known to have joined Lashkar-e-Taiba units in Kashmir to acquire military training. This is, however, the first case in which an Indian national from outside Kashmir has been associated with Ansar Ghazwa ’tul-Hind.
In the message, Ansar Ghazwa ’tul Hind argues strongly against democratic politics, calling on Muslims to “beware the Congress and BJP, the Samajwadi Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Trinamul Congress or Bahujan Samaj Party, for all are only faces of tyranny”.
“The only solution for you is the rule of sharia’t, which Allah has commanded”, ‘Sultan Zabul al-Hindi’ asserts.
The message is also directed at audiences in Pakistan, pointing to military ruler General Pervez Musharraf’s assault on the Islamist-controlled Lal Masjid in Islamabad. “The Babri Masjid and the Lal Masjid were one, and those who extinguished them were also one, both idol-worshippers”.
Like other transnational Kashmir jihadist groups, the Ansar Ghazwa ’tul-Hind says it is devoted not just to the state, but to a wider struggle to impose Islamic rule in India. In May, Ansar chief Bhat appeared in a video posing under the al-Qaeda banner, accusing Indian Muslims of cowardice, and calling on them to engage in jihad against the government.
This summer, al-Qaeda’s Global Islamic Media Front issued a formal declaration, saying “the jihad in Kashmir has reached 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”.
Ansar Ghazwa ’tul Hind remains a small organisation, but appears to have won some cachet among young Kashmiri Islamists disillusioned with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar. Pro-Zakir Bhat slogans were, notably, raised at an Indian Army-organised cricket match between the towns of Budgam and Ompora over the weekend.
The 1994-born Bhat, who drifted towards jihadism after being asked to leave the Ram Dev Jindal College in Chandigarh after failing his first term examinations, initially joined the Hizb, but drifted away after becoming persuaded that its leadership had betrayed last summer’s mass protests in Kashmir.