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Killed in US drone attack in Kabul, al Qaeda chief Zawahiri repeatedly waded into India issues

From ordering ‘blows on the Indian Army’ to holding forth on the college hijab row, Ayman al-Zawahiri was never short of gratuitous advice for the country.

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New Delhi: Deceased al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahari not only masterminded multiple terror attacks but was also a stringent and public critic of those he considered an antithesis to his ideology.

Over the years, Zawahiri took aim at other countries in speeches and videos, like this 2012 appearance where he called on Muslims to kidnap Westerners.

Zawahari, who was killed by a precision drone attack in his Kabul safe house on Saturday night, never missed the chance to meddle into India’s affairs. More frequently, after he took over as Qaeda chief following the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

ThePrint takes a look at some of his activities and vitriol against India.

Zawahiri set up al Qaeda’s Indian subcontinent chapter

In September 2014, Zawahiri announced the Indian subcontinent chapter of the al Qaeda, known as AQIS, or Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent.

In an hour-long video, Zawahiri claimed to speak for the interests of Muslims living in different parts of India, particularly in Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir, as well as in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

“Your brothers [in al Qaeda] did not forget you and they are doing what they can to rescue you,” The New York Times had quoted Zawahiri as saying at that time. He said the Indian chapter’s objective was to “crush the artificial borders established by the English occupiers to divide the Muslims”.

‘Inflicting unrelenting blows on Indian Army’

Nearly five years after AQIS, Zawahiri released another subcontinent-focused video — this time on Kashmir — when Indian security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander and al Qaeda ally Zakir Musa.

In the video, Zawahiri hit out at both India and Pakistan, calling on Kashmir-based mujahideen to “single-mindedly focus on inflicting unrelenting blows on the Indian Army and government”. He derided the Pakistani military and government as “toadies of America”.

“All the Pakistani Army and government are interested in is exploiting the mujahideen for specific political objectives, only to dump or persecute them later. [Pakistan’s] conflict with India is essentially a secular rivalry over borders managed by the American intelligence,” NDTV quoted Zawahiri as saying.

Weighing in on Karnataka college hijab issue

In his most recent and final video on India-related matters, Zawahiri said in April that people should “stop being deceived by the mirage of Hindu democracy in India”, referring to the socio-political controversy that had erupted in Karnataka colleges when a woman student, Muskan Khan, protested after being discriminated against for wearing a hijab.

“She has unveiled the reality and unmasked the nature of the conflict between the chaste and pure Muslim ‘ummah’ and the degenerate and depraved polytheist and atheist enemies it confronts. May Allah reward her greatly for imparting a practical lesson to Muslim sisters plagued by an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the decadent western world. May Allah reward her for exposing the reality of Hindu India and the deception of its pagan democracy,” The Indian Express quoted Zawahiri as saying, in a nearly 10-minute video.

However, Muskan’s father Mohammad Hussain hit back at Zawahiri for his unwarranted observations. “I don’t even know who he is and it is wrong to take my daughter’s name. I am happy in my country. We do not need them (al-Qaeda) to speak about our country’s issues. They are just spoiling our peace,” Hussain said.

Also read: ‘No matter where you hide’: US kills al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike


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