Global terror outfit al-Qaeda (AQ) on Thursday announced the establishment of a new wing in Indian-administered Kashmir and hinted at intensifying its anti-India operations.
Zakir Rashid Bhat (alias Zakir Musa), a 24-year-old former leader of Kashmir’s oldest separatist faction, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), will head the new group called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) – al-Qaeda’s media wing – said on its website via a statement widely shared on social media platforms.
The new terror outfit aims to free Kashmir from Indian rule following the killing of Burhan Wani, a top HM separatist who was gunned down by security forces in July last year, the group said.
“After the martyrdom of heroic Mujahid Burhan Wani, the freedom fighter, the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening, as the Muslim nation of Kashmir has committed to carry the flag of Jihad and repel the aggression of tyrant Indian invaders, and through jihad and with the aid of Allah only, we will liberate our homeland Kashmir,” read the statement (see below).
“For this goal, a new movement of jihad has been founded by the companions of martyr Burhan Wani under the leadership of Mujahid Zakir Musa,” it added.
Claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, the Indian side of Kashmir – called Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state – has been grappling with a separatist insurgency that has claimed over 70,000 lives since the late 1980s.
Police in the disputed Himalayan region said they would capture or kill Musa soon.
“Musa is a most wanted terrorist in India and his so-called elevation as the head of al-Qaeda’s new terror group will not come in the way of his elimination,” S.P. Vaid, Indian Kashmir’s police chief, told BenarNews.
“Indian forces are closely monitoring his activities and he would be tracked down very soon. He has managed to give us the slip on at least two occasions in the past. But his death is imminent no matter which organization he is a part of,” Vaid said.
Al-Qaeda, which was founded by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, has been blamed for several terrorist attacks across the globe, including the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The group’s Indian arm is called Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).
Once a budding engineer
Musa, a resident of Noorpora, a village in south Kashmir’s militancy-ravaged Pulwama district, quit an engineering college to join HM in 2013.
Within a short span Musa gained popularity by disseminating appeals through social media urging Kashmiri youth to join HM’s more two-decade long fight to free Kashmir from Indian rule.
But Musa was forced to leave HM in May after he threatened to behead some separatists for describing the fight against Indian rule as a “secular movement.”
Just days after quitting HM, Musa released a video message in which he spoke of his support for al-Qaeda and establishing an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir.
“I want to thank al-Qaeda, which has supported Islamic rule in Afghanistan. God willing, Kashmir, too, will become an abode of Islam. I will always strive for an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir while fighting against occupational Indian forces,” Musa said in the video.
“I am backing those who want to establish a caliphate in Kashmir,” he said.
In his last audio clip released in June, Musa slammed Indian Muslims for not coming forward to join the fight against what he called Indian oppressors, whom he blamed for a string of recent attacks on Muslims over suspicion that they had slaughtered cows or consumed beef.
This screen grab shows a statement on the website of al-Qaida’s media unit announcing the establishment of an AQ affiliate in Kashmir, Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind. [BenarNews]