New Delhi: Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri has asked the “Mujahideen in Kashmir” to inflict “unrelenting blows” on the Indian Army and the government in Jammu and Kashmir in a message released by the terror group’s media wing.
In the 14-minute speech, Zawahiri also brought to light Pakistan’s involvement in fuelling cross-border terrorism in Kashmir in a message titled “Don't Forget Kashmir”. Zawahiri hails from Egypt and the United States has announced a reward of $25 million for information leading to his arrest or death.
The Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD) Long War Journal in an article said the Al-Qaeda had been grooming an upstart group to wage jihad against the Indian forces in Kashmir.
“(I am) of the view that the Mujahideen in Kashmir — at this stage at least — should single-mindedly focus on inflicting unrelenting blows on the Indian Army and government, so as to bleed the Indian economy and make India suffer sustained losses in manpower and equipment,” Zawahiri said.
Calling both the Pakistani Army and the government “toadies of America”, Zawahiri compared Pakistan's policy on Kashmir to that of the Taliban and migrant terrorists.
The video was posted on 'As-Sahab' channel, an in-house production of the al-Qaeda used to relay the organisation's views to the world, also asked the terrorists "to establish stronger channels of communication with their Muslim brethren all over the world".
The video has been checked by security agencies who believed it was an attempt to unite the disgruntled terrorist ranks in the valley, officials said.
While Zawahiri did not mention Zakir Musa, the terrorist killed by security forces in Kashmir in May, his photo flashed on the screen as the chief spoke on Kashmir. Musa was the founder of the Indian cell of the Al Qaeda, titled "Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind".
Pakistan's "conflict with India is essentially a secular rivalry over borders managed by the American intelligence", said the Qaeda chief.
Zawahiri also claimed that the "fight in Kashmir" is not a separate conflict but instead is part of the worldwide Muslim community's "jihad against a vast array of forces". He called on "unnamed" scholars to spread this point.
"You (the scholars) must clearly state that supporting the jihad in Kashmir, the Philippines, Chechnya, Central Asia, Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, the Islamic Maghreb and Turkistan is an individual obligation on all Muslims, until sufficient strength is achieved to expel the disbelieving occupier from Muslim lands," he said.
Zawahiri claimed that Pakistan prevented the "Arab Mujahideen" from "head[ing] to Kashmir after expelling the Russians from Afghanistan", which was countered by the author by quoting the 9/11 Commission.
Thomas Joscelyn, in his article for the journal, said that the US had learned of the presence of Pakistan's military intelligence service at one of al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan, which was struck in retaliation for the August 1998 US Embassy bombings. The Pakistanis were training Kashmiri jihadists at the camp, according to the author.
The writer also highlighted the "double game" played by Pakistan after the gruesome 9/11 terror attacks in the US. While Pakistan did conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda following the 2001 attacks, it also harboured the Taliban's senior leadership, including members of the al Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network.
"All the Pakistani Army and government are interested in is exploiting the mujahideen for specific political objectives, only to dump or persecute them later," Zawahiri claimed, highlighting Pakistan's role while casting them in a negative light.
Zawahiri also told terrorists not to target "mosques, markets, and gathering places of Muslims" in Kashmir.
The video comes amid the government’s recent claims of reduction in infiltration in the state. The Ministry of Home Affairs has told Parliament that compared to infiltration in 2018, the number this year has come down by 43%, recruitment of local Kashmiris by terror groups is down by 40% and there is a hike in number of terrorists killed by 22%.