In a video lasting approximately nine minutes, Zawahiri urged Indian Muslims to respond to what he called anti-Islamic “oppression” and condemned the government of India, as well as the administrations of neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, who he accused of being “allies of the West.”
New footage of the notorious terrorist–the first seen since November 2021–confirms Zawahiri did not die of natural causes, as recently alleged.
Tensions over the wearing of Islamic veils and headscarves have been simmering for several months in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka following a January ban on hijabs in the classroom at public schools in the Udupi district. The ban sparked protests by Muslim students and counter-protests by Hindu youth. A top court for the state has upheld the ban for now, until a final decision can be reached.
Al-Qaeda’s new campaign to further drive a wedge between India’s Hindu and Muslim populations comes amid possible steps by Pakistan and India to overcome their historic divide, which dates back to the partition of India by the British in 1947.
Embattled Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly praised India’s “independent foreign policy” in recent weeks as both nations have resisted efforts by the US and European nations to be drawn into an economic confrontation with Russia.
“My foreign policy will be independent,” as well, Khan told Pakistanis during a widely-viewed address to the nation Thursday.
“An independent foreign policy,” he said, “is one which is meant for Pakistanis… It doesn’t mean we will be anti-Americans, anti-India or anti-European.”
Khan ordered new elections for Pakistan’s parliament this weekend following the opposition’s move to subject him to a no-confidence vote–a vote which Khan openly accused the US of orchestrating and influencing as part of a “foreign conspiracy” to overthrow his government. The US State Department has denied the allegations.
Ties between the CIA and Osama Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri’s predecessor, predated the creation of Al Qaeda by many years. Under “Operation Cyclone,” billions of dollars in weapons, including thousands of Stinger surface-to-air missiles, were shipped to the so-called “freedom fighters” of Bin Laden’s mujahideen forces to fight against Afghanistan’s secular socialist government and the Soviet troops backing them.
There is still no evidence to suggest that, in its current form, Al-Qaeda exists as an appendage of Western intelligence services. The timing and targets of the terrorist group’s latest video release raise fresh questions over what their next target will be.