Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released a statement praising the establishment of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). The statement was released on Twitter on Sept. 7. It was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
AQAP offers congratulations “on the occasion of what Allah bestowed of grace upon your sons the mujahideen of the Indian Subcontinent … in coming together under one banner as one group called” AQIS.
The group gives “special congratulations” to its “mujahideen brothers in various trenches” and especially “our Sheikh and good Emir, Dr. Abu Muhammad Ayman al Zawahiri,” as well as “the good Sheikh Asim Umar,” who was named the emir of AQIS.
AQAP portrays AQIS as the righteous defenders of Muslims, who are supposedly oppressed throughout the Indian subcontinent.
The group says, according to SITE’s translation, that all one need do is “look at the condition of the Muslims in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujurat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir from the countries of the Indian Subcontinent,” because “the heart wrenches in pain for what has befallen them of cunning and damage, slaughter and burning, destitution, and destruction of homes, for nothing other than being Muslims who bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
AQIS was organized in opposition to this supposed alliance against Muslims, AQAP says. Furthermore, AQIS is “the vanguard of those who defend our Muslim people in that bleeding battlefield in the east of the lands of Islam.”
Al Qaeda announced the creation of AQIS earlier this month, saying “it was formed by the gathering of several jihadi groups that have a long history in jihad and fighting.” AQIS did not say which jihadist groups had joined the new umbrella organization, but it likely includes jihadists long allied with al Qaeda in the region.
AQIS joins AQAP, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Al Nusrah Front, and Shabaab as formal branches of al Qaeda. The leaders of these five organizations have each publicly sworn bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Zawahiri and al Qaeda’s most senior leaders.
In addition to these five formal branches, al Qaeda also maintains unannounced ties to other jihadist organizations. In 2006, for instance, Zawahiri claimed, “Many groups have joined al Qaeda some of which have been announced and others have not.” Both Shabaab and Al Nusrah initially sought to hide their relationships with al Qaeda’s senior leadership.
AQAP’s emir, Nasir al Wuhayshi, also serves as the general manager of al Qaeda’s global operations. Documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s hideout reveal that the responsibilities of al Qaeda’s general manager include overseeing certain aspects of the regional branches’ operations.