SRINAGAR, India, (AP) – A group claiming to represent the al-Qaeda terror network declared a holy war on India over its partial control of the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, Indian officials said Saturday.
A statement and video was sent Friday to the Current News Service, in Srinagar, the main city of India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, in which a masked man standing next to an automatic weapon read the declaration.
“We declare righteous holy war against India on behalf of God the great in which Jammu and Kashmir will be the launch pad for holy war in India,” said the statement signed by Abu Abdul Rehman al-Ansari, purportedly the chief of al-Qaeda Fil Hind or al-Qaeda in India.
While this is the first time the group has been heard from since it announced its establishment in July, police said they were taking the threat seriously.
Police are trying to establish the veracity of the statement, said the state’s director general of police Gopal Sharma. “But there is no need to panic,” he said.
There have been allegations that Islamic militants fighting to wrest predominantly Muslim Kashmir from India have ties to al-Qaeda, but these links have not been proven.
The statement — five pages long and given in Urdu — mentions insurgencies in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, the Palestinian territories and Algeria and describes them as a global Islamic movement “aimed at wiping out borders and leading to the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate.”
Muslims account for 130 million of the India’s 1.1 billion people and their relations with the country’s Hindu majority have been largely peaceful since the bloody partition of the subcontinent at its independence from Britain in 1947.
But there have been sporadic bouts of religious violence, and India’s part of Kashmir — a Himalayan land divided between India and Pakistan in a 1948 war — has been beset by an Islamic separatist insurgency since 1989.
More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict.
India has also blamed Kashmiri militants for a string on bombings across India in recent years.