al-Qaeda, which has announced the creation of a separate wing for India, wants to portray the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an enemy of Islam and as such India should take its threat "very seriously", a well-known American counter-terror expert said on Thursday even as the US tried to downplay the terrorist outfit's capabilities, reports The Times of India.
"This video, the first from (al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-) Zawahiri this year, should be taken very seriously. Al-Qaeda wants to portray Prime Minister Modi as an enemy of Islam," ex-CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who is considered to be one of the US's top experts on counter-terrorism, told.
"From its base in Pakistan and with its close links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaeda is a dangerous menace to India," Riedel said when asked about the latest video of Zawahiri announcing al-Qaeda's creation of a new branch for the Indian subcontinent to "raise the flag of jihad" across South Asia.
In the 56-minute video which was posted on various social media websites including YouTube posted on Wednesday, Zawahri said the formation of the branch would be good news for Muslims in Myanmar, Bangladesh and in the Indian states of Assam, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir, where they would be rescued from injustice and oppression.
Zawahiri, who appeared eager to regain some of the limelight, used a mixture of his native Arabic and Urdu widely spoken in Pakistan.
Reiterating that the new Indian government should take the threat very seriously, Riedel said that New Delhi should increase its counter-terrorism co-operation with the US and Afghanistan, the Indian newspaper reports.
After the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US has increased significantly.
The US, however, is yet to verify the authenticity of the video or the creation of a new wing of al-Qaeda.
"We haven't been able to verify that yet. Obviously, we're looking to see if there's more information we can get about this here," US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference.
"We also don't regard this announcement as an indication of any new capabilities by al-Qaeda," she said.
At the same time, she reiterated that the US remains committed to dismantling al-Qaeda anywhere that it poses a threat to the US and make sure that it doesn't renew its threat to America.
NOT A THREAT: US
The announcement by al-Qaeda that it has formed a branch for operating in India is not an indication of the terrorist outfit gaining new capabilities, the US today said, asserting that it is committed to dismantling the group.
"We do not regard the announcement as an indication of new capabilities by al-Qaeda, which has long been active throughout the region," Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council at the White House, said.
"We have seen the reports of al-Qaeda's new branch on the Indian subcontinent. The US remains committed to dismantling al-Qaeda and ensuring that it never again poses a threat to the American people," she said in response to a question.
The US, she said, has robust counter-terrorism partnerships in the region to combat al-Qaeda's destabilising influence, to deny it safe haven, to counter violent extremism, and to build resilience against terrorist groups.
After the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, co-operation between the US and India on counter-terrorism issues has increased significantly.
This is expected to be one of the key topics of discussion between the two countries when Narendra Modi travels to Washington later this month to meet US President Barack Obama.
"We have seriously degraded al-Qaeda in the region, and will continue our efforts against the group and affiliates that pose a threat to the American people," Hayden said.
BANGLADESH ANALYSES WITH UTMOST SERIOUSNESS
Meanwhile, officials from Bangladesh home ministry and law enforcement agencies on Thursday said there was no scope for the rise of militancy in the country, yet they were analysing the message with the utmost seriousness.
“We are verifying the clip and will make a formal statement tomorrow or the day after,” State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters at his ministry yesterday.
He ruled out the possibility of Islamist militancy spreading its tentacles in Bangladesh but said agencies will check out whether any local organisation has links to al-Qaeda.