UN report highlights Al Qaida’s expanding operations in India and Bangladesh


A recent United Nations report has acknowledged that the Afghanistan-based extremist group Al Qaida is intensifying its terrorist activities in India and Bangladesh. The revelation comes in the wake of Indian security forces arresting operatives with links to Al Qaida who were seeking recruits for potential jihad terror attacks.

Of significant concern is Al Qaida’s close ideological and operational ties with other militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which have been waging jihad against India in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir. With the Taliban in control of Afghanistan following the chaotic US withdrawal in 2021, Al Qaida has found refuge under the protection of the newly-formed Islamic Emirate.

Following the Taliban’s takeover, Al Qaida renewed its call for global jihad, praising the Taliban’s victory and urging Muslims to prepare for further struggles. Moreover, it appears that the terrorist group is actively shaping its regional affiliate, Al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), to expand its operations into Jammu and Kashmir, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

The UN report revealed that the Al Qaida core in Afghanistan consists of approximately 30 to 60 members, with an estimated 400 fighters in total. This number increases to around 2,000 when accounting for family members and supporters in the country. In the Indian Subcontinent, AQIS has approximately 200 fighters, led by Osama Mehmood.

The report also pointed to Sayf al-Adl as the most likely successor to Aiman al-Zawahiri as the chief of Al Qaida, who is reportedly still in Iran. On another front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan (ISIL-K) was identified as the most serious terrorist threat in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. With an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 members, ISIL-K poses significant challenges to both the Taliban and international targets.

The UN report emphasized that Afghanistan remains a place of global significance for terrorism, with about 20 terrorist groups operating within its borders. Al-Qaida continues to maintain a close and symbiotic relationship with the Taliban, operating covertly to ensure the Taliban’s compliance with agreements not to use Afghan soil for terrorist purposes.

While Al-Qaida’s capability to conduct large-scale terror attacks has diminished, its intent remains resolute. The group utilizes Afghanistan as an ideological and logistical hub to mobilize and recruit new fighters while secretly rebuilding its external operations capability. Al Qaida is currently in a reorganization phase, establishing new training centers in Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

Member states expressed concern that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) could become a regional threat if it continues to have a safe operating base in Afghanistan. Some states even worry that TTP may provide an umbrella for various foreign groups to operate or merge, bypassing control efforts by the Taliban.

As the situation in Afghanistan remains uncertain, Al-Qaida’s prospects will largely depend on the country’s stability. If Afghanistan descends into chaos and insecurity, Al-Qaida’s presence may strengthen. Conversely, if the country achieves stability, the group may shift its core operations to other regions, such as Yemen or North Africa.

The report highlights the evolving and complex threat posed by Al Qaida and related terrorist organizations, urging vigilance and cooperation among nations to address these security challenges effectively.


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