London (BBN)-al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has announced in a videoed message the creation of an Indian branch of his militant group to “raise the flag of jihad” across South Asia.
In the 55-minute video posted online, Zawahari pledged renewed loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, reports BBC.
Correspondents say his stated allegiance is an apparent snub to Islamic State (IS) militants.
IS is challenging al-Qaeda to lead worldwide Islamist militancy.
Announcing the formation of “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent” using a mixture of his native Arabic and Urdu widely spoken in Pakistan, Zawahiri appeared eager to regain some of the limelight, correspondents say.
“[Al-Qaeda] is an entity that was formed to promulgate the call of the reviving imam, Sheikh Osama Bin Laden. May Allah have mercy upon him,” Zawahiri said.
He urged the “umma”, or Muslim nation, to” wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty and to revive its caliphate”.
Zawahiri said “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent” would be good news for Muslims in Burma, Bangladesh and in the Indian states of Assam, Gujarat, and Jammu and Kashmir, where they would be rescued from injustice and oppression.
Counter-terrorism experts say al-Qaeda’s ageing leadership is vying with IS to recruit followers after the success of militants in the Middle East in attracting young followers worldwide by conquering large amounts of territory across Iraq and Syria.
IS leader Abu Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi describes himself as a “caliph” – or head of state – and has called for the support of all Muslims around the world.
The two groups fell out in 2013 over the IS expansion into Syria, where Baghdadi’s followers have carried out decapitations, crucifixions, and other forms of capital punishment.
BBN/JK-04Sept14-9:00am (BST)