A day after the deadly terrorist attack in Dhaka in which 20 people were killed, al-Qaida on Sunday asked Indian Muslims to carry out lone-wolf attacks in the country on the lines of the strikes in Europe.
The head of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), Asim Umar, issued a statement “inciting Indian Muslims to rise up and to follow the example of lone wolves in Europe and kill administrative and police officers in India.”
Al-Qaida has been making attempts for the past two years to recruit Indians for its operations in the region but has struggled so far.
Incidentally, Umar’s exhortation to Indians Muslims to carry out attacks comes four days after the US state department designated AQIS as a “foreign terrorist organisation“ and added Umar to the list of “global terrorists“.
The statement, tracked by US-based SITE Intelligence Group, has made intelligence agencies sit up as both al-Qaida and Islamic State (IS) are making increased efforts to recruit Indians and carry out attacks in the country .
A counter-terrorism official told TOI that the “situation was grim“. “Especially , lone-wolf attacks, which have lately being carried out in Europe and other places, are a cause of concern,“ he said.
Though al-Qaida is not known for lone-wolf attacks, experts said its exploring this option could be aimed at countering IS’s growing appeal in the subcontinent. A rivalry is visible between AQIS and IS, and both are trying to establish themselves in the region, especially in India and Bangladesh, which were earlier dominated by homegrown terror outfits or Pakistan-based organisations.
Intelligence Bureau officials said terror groups like alQaida and IS were focusing on `lone wolf ‘ strategy, especially in India, as they were not able to make much headway here.Also, working individually makes it difficult, almost impossible, to track the activities of the person who is planning an attack.
Like the Orlando attack, where US authorities had no inkling of the plan of `lone wolf ‘ attacker Omar Mateen, Indians attracted to these groups and planning violent acts could pose a grave threat.
Indian agencies have been successful in tracking AQIS and IS’s plans. Delhi Police busted an AQIS module last year with the arrest of two people while the NIA and state police forces have arrested 54 IS members at the stage of planning.
Asim Umar, whose real name is Sanaul Haq, belongs to Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal and moved to Pakistan in the 1990s to enter the jihadi fold.He was announced as the head of AQIS by Qaida chief Ayman Al Zawahiri in 2014.
High alert in 5 states neighbouring Bangladesh
A high alert has been sounded in the five states -West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assama and Mizoram -that share their borders with Bangladesh. The alert comes in the wake of the terror attack in Dhaka with the BSF stepping up its vigil. The West Bengal administration has asked the police to be on high alert and take serious note of any suspicious movement in the border districts.The Assam Police has instructed SPs, especially of the border districts, to keep a strict vigil for any possible IS activity.