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 Al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)

STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR AL-QA'IDA IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT

Also known as: AQIS

This statement is based on publicly available information about al-Qa'ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). To the Australian Government's knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Criminal Code) provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Australian Federal Police Minister must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  1. is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, or assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  2. advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first proscribed AQIS as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code with effect from 28 November 2016.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Objectives

AQIS is an al-Qa'ida-affiliated extremist group, established in 2014 with the purpose of advancing al-Qa'ida's ideology in South Asia. The objectives of AQIS are the same as those previously articulated by al-Qa'ida—to prepare Muslims for military jihad against their enemies, to liberate Muslim lands now ruled by non-Muslims, and to revive the Islamic caliphate. In his 2014 announcement of the establishment of AQIS, Ayman al-Zawahiri identified Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, and India's regions of Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir as regions where it would operate.

On 6 March 2016, the AQIS media branch, al-Sahad in the Indian Subcontinent, provided a link to the video 'Al-Hadeed News Report'. The video outlined the objectives of AQIS as to conduct attacks on:

  • the United States of America (US);
  • the Pakistani Military Intelligence and Security agencies;
  • the Government of Pakistan;
  • enemies of Islam; and
  • blasphemers, atheists and disbelievers.

The objectives were approved by the AQIS Central Shura following instructions from al-Zawahiri.

AQIS has undertaken the following to advance its ideology and achieve its objectives:

Directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

AQIS members have historically conducted attacks against Pakistani military and security personnel. The attacks have ranged from targeted assassination of senior military and intelligence officials to larger scale attacks using improvised explosive devices resulting in multiple deaths.

There has been one attack reliably attributed to AQIS since it was proscribed in November 2016. On 6 January 2017, two AQIS militants attacked the North Nazimabad Police Complex in Karachi, Pakistan, with a grenade and then fired on traffic police, killing one civilian.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

AQIS has publicly advocated the doing of terrorist attacks in order to further its objectives, including through online propaganda designed to radicalise and inspire susceptible individuals to undertake attacks. Public statements where AQIS has advocated terrorist attacks include:

  • 15 September 2018: AQIS directly urged the doing of a terrorist act by calling for lone-actor attacks in the West as revenge for perceived insults to Islam, calling on Muslims living in the West ‘to kill anyone’ indulging in ‘blasphemous activities’.
  • 24 January 2018: AQIS directly urged the doing of a terrorist act by calling for Muslims to attack the US and liberate Palestine, responding to the US recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
  • June 2017: AQIS directly provided instruction on the doing of a terrorist act by releasing a 20-page ‘code of conduct’ emphasising its allegiance to al-Zawahiri, inviting extremists to wage violent jihad on behalf of AQIS and providing instruction on the selection of targets for terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh, including targeting Western interests.

Details of the organisation

AQIS was established with the assistance of al-Qa'ida and shares the same anti-Western ideology. Al-Qa'ida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, officially announced the existence of AQIS on 3 September 2014, and identified Pakistan-based Asim Umar as its leader.

Leadership

AQIS leader Asim Umar is an Indian national from the northern region of Uttar Pradesh who moved from India to Pakistan in the 1990s. Umar was a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) military commander and al-Qa’ida propagandist prior to being named leader of AQIS in September 2014.

AQIS leadership resides in the eastern and southern regions of Afghanistan, and North and South Waziristan, Pakistan.

Membership

AQIS membership was initially drawn from extremist groups in Pakistan, with most members being Pakistani nationals. The exact size and composition of AQIS is unknown. 

Recruitment and funding

AQIS established a presence in India in 2015 with the intention of radicalising and recruiting Indian nationals. The leader of AQIS in India, Mohammad Asif, was arrested by Indian authorities in late 2015. Asif said that the recruits from India were transported to Afghanistan for training in weapons, tactics and religious studies. In June 2016, charges were filed against 17 alleged AQIS members in Delhi, India, for conspiracy, recruitment for a terrorist act, and membership of a terrorist organisation.

Links to other terrorist organisations

AQIS has close links with al-Qa’ida core (al-Qa’ida is listed as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code), the Afghan Taliban and TTP. In the group’s ‘code of conduct’ released in June 2017, AQIS confirmed its allegiance to al-Zawahiri and ultimately the Taliban’s most senior leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

AQIS is also associated with Bangladesh-based extremist group Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh (AIB) – AIB conducted eight killings of secularists and bloggers in Bangladesh between 2014 and 2016, and AQIS has claimed responsibility for each of these attacks.

Links to Australia

There are no known links between AQIS and Australia.

Threats to Australian interests

Australian interests have not been targeted by AQIS – however, the anti-Western ideology of the group and AQIS's willingness to undertake large scale, indiscriminate attacks may result in attacks against Australian interests.

In addition, AQIS specifically mentioned an Australian Navy vessel during the planning of the AQIS operation to take control of a Pakistani Navy Ship in 2014. AQIS noted that the Australian Navy was participating in the patrols of sea routes. Targeting of the Australian Navy vessel was abandoned in favour of easier targets.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

AQIS is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Governments of the US and Canada, and is included in the UK Government's listing of al-Qa'ida.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

AQIS is not engaged in any peace or mediation processes.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) assesses that AQIS continues to be directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts or advocates the doing of terrorist acts, involving threats to human life and serious damage to property.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, AQIS is known to have committed or threatened actions that:

  • cause, or could cause, death, serious harm to persons, serious damage to property, endanger life (other than the life of the person taking the action), or create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public;
  • are intended to have those effects;
  • are done with the intention of advancing AQIS's political, religious or ideological causes;
  • are done with the intention of intimidating the government of one or more foreign countries; and
  • are done with the intention of intimidating the public or sections of the public.
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