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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 provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney-General 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 has not previously proscribed AQIS as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.

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 US:
    • AQIS has stated 'the United States is the leader of the infidel Crusader war against the Muslim ummah, and is the real enemy of Islam and Muslims on every front'
  • the Pakistani military intelligence and security agencies:
    • AQIS describe these groups as the 'protectors and guardians of the Crusader infidels and also their frontline allies. The oppressive agencies massacre Muslims, loot their property, and violate their honor [sic]'
  • the Government of Pakistan:
    • AQIS describe the Pakistan Government as 'the United States' puppet'
  • enemies of Islam:
    • AQIS identify the enemies of Islam as those who 'extort Muslim businessmen and are involved in murdering Sunni religious scholars', and
  • blasphemers, atheists and disbelievers:
    • AQIS identify 'blasphemers, atheists, and disbelievers' as the target of attack due to mockery of 'Islam and the banner of Islam'.

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

Attacks claimed by or attributed to AQIS include:

  • 6 September 2014: two days after al-Zawahiri announced AQIS's establishment—AQIS attempted an operation to take control of two Pakistani naval ships—PNS Zulfiqar and PNS Aslat—and planned to use the PNS Zulfiqar's weapons to attack a US refuelling tanker and its escort while the US tanker was refuelling the PNS Zulfiqar. The AQIS operatives—including Pakistani naval officers—hid small arms and explosives on PNS Zulfiqar for use in the attack and facilitated additional militants to stowaway on board the vessel. The AQIS operation was thwarted by Pakistani Navy and security forces shortly after it commenced, resulting in the death of ten AQIS extremists. AQIS had planned to use the Pakistani naval ships to attack naval vessels from Australia and India; however, this plan was abandoned in favour of attacking an easier target.
  • 6 September 2014: AQIS gunmen assassinated Pakistani Military Intelligence Brigadier Zahoor Fazal Qadri.
  • 28 March 2015 : Pakistani Army Colonel Tariq Azim was killed by AQIS in a 'targeted killing operation'.
  • May 2015: twenty Pakistani Army soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device placed by AQIS in the Hathala region of Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.

AQIS facilitates its members training in the use of weapons, tactics and explosives at camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The training is undertaken to prepare for and assist in the conduct of AQIS attacks.

AQIS members have conducted attacks against individuals in Pakistan identified as 'blasphemers' and the 'enemies of Islam'.

  • 2 May 2015: in a speech, AQIS leader Asim Umar said AQIS was responsible for the early 2015 killings in of Shakeel Auj and Aniqa Naz

AQIS has actively encouraged the affiliated extremist group, Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh (AIB), to conduct similar attacks in Bangladesh. AIB aligned itself with AQIS after al-Qa'ida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced the establishment of AQIS in September 2014. AQIS has claimed responsibility for the killing, by AIB members, of secularists or critics of Islam in Bangladesh in eight attacks since November 2014.

  • 16 November 2014: Shafi-ul Islam Lilon (atheist and blasphemer)
  • 26 February 2015: Avijit Roy (Secular blogger)
  • 30 March 2015: Washiqur Rahman Babu (Secular blogger)
  • 12 May 2015: Ananta Bijoy Das (Secular blogger)
  • 7 August 2015: Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy (Secular blogger)
  • 31 October 2015: Faisal Arefin Dipan (Publisher of secular content)
  • 6 April 2016: Nazim Uddin Samad (online activist)
  • 25 April 2016: Xulhaz Mannan and Tonmoi Mahbub (LGBT advocate)

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

AQIS has publically advocated terrorist attacks in order to further its objectives. Public statements in which AQIS has advocated terrorist attacks include:

3 July 2016: AQIS leader Asim Umar issued a public statement encouraging Muslims in India to follow the example of lone actors in Europe and 'kill the senior officers of institutions and administrative departments that get [people to] start these riots. Target [Indian Administrative Service] and [Indian Police Service] officers. Cause them financial loss.' The encouragement of autonomous, small scale attacks is a departure from the approval and control demonstrated by AQIS over previous attacks.

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 whose birth name was Sanaul Haq. He 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 as the leader of AQIS in September 2014. Umar's network of senior jihadists is extensive and this is likely to have been a reason for his appointment as AQIS leader. Umar is reported to have contacts within Harakat ul Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM—also listed under the Criminal Code), the Afghan Taliban and the TTP.

The close ties between AQIS leadership, the TTP and the Afghan Taliban allow the leadership to reside 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. Members are now being drawn from across South Asia, however, the exact size 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. These links allow AQIS to operate and train within the safe haven of eastern and southern Afghanistan, and North and South Waziristan in Pakistan.
In October 2015, AQIS leader, Asim Umar, pledged allegiance to the then chief of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mansour. Umar is also associated with the terrorist groups, HuJI and JeM.

AQIS is associated with the extremist group AIB—AIB have conducted eight killings of secularists and bloggers in Bangladesh and AQIS has claimed responsibility for each of the eight 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 government of the US and is included in the UK government's listing of al-Qa'ida. The United Nations and other like-minded countries have not listed AQIS at this time.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

AQIS is not engaged in any peace or mediation processes.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, 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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