Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri urged supporters in the disputed Kashmir region to inflict “unrelenting blows” on Indian soldiers and their government, the Long War Journal learned this week from one of the terrorist group’s media arms.
Zawahiri also denounced the government of Pakistan as “toadies of America,” accusing Islamabad of holding back jihad in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region in the Himalayas claimed by Pakistan, its ally China, and its rival India.
He further declared that jihad on behalf of the Taliban is “an individual obligation.”
In the latest message, titled “Don’t Forget Kashmir,” the international jihadi group’s leader declares:
Mujahideen [Islamic guerilla fighters] in Kashmir- at this stage at least- should single-mindedly focus on inflicting unrelenting blows on the Indian Army and government, so as to bleed the Indian economy and make India suffer sustained losses in manpower and equipment.
Zawahiri went on to accuse Pakistan of reining in jihad against Indian interests and assets by preventing large-scaled attacks.
The mujahideen must “liberate the Kashmiri jihad from the clutches of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies,” such that the jihad is “for the sake of Allah” (meaning for the purpose of implementing strict Islamic laws known as sharia) as opposed to a struggle “for the sake of international criminals,” he proclaimed.
The Pakistani government and armed forces are “toadies of America” who prevented the “Arab Mujahideen” from “head[ing] to Kashmir after expelling the Russians from Afghanistan,” Zawahiri added.
LWJ acknowledged that Pakistan has traditionally supported groups focused on pushing India out of Kashmir, including some that are cozy with al-Qaeda.
The Kashmir region has been gripped by violent unrest, fueled by constant clashes between Indian soldiers and Pakistan-linked terrorists along the border the separates their respective portions of Kashmir.
While India accuses Pakistan of backing terrorists in the region, Islamabad accuses India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party of cracking down on Muslim dissidents in favor of a merger with Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan deny the accusations.
Zawahiri proclaimed in his message:
I would like to discuss with you today a tragedy that has continued unabated for over seventy years: the plight of the Muslims of Kashmir. It is a tragedy made even more dire by the fact that they are caught between Hindu brutality on the one hand and the treachery and conspiracies of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies on the other.
Given the endless sufferings that they have endured, we must strongly empathize with their cause… and extend to them all possible support.
The al-Qaeda chief also accused Pakistan of selling out the Taliban to the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Although Islamabad has targeted some al-Qaeda members, the Pentagon has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring some of the group’s allies, including the Taliban.
Pakistan vehemently denies the allegations.
The United Nations has contradicted the Pentagon’s claimed that the Taliban is distancing itself from al-Qaeda amid ongoing peace negotiations with the United States.
Currently, the United States and the Taliban are engaged in negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan. Negotiators are trying to work out the details of a prospective withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for Taliban guarantees that it will not allow al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups to operate on Afghan soil.
U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11 in response to the Taliban harboring al-Qaeda jihadis. Nearly 18 years later and the two terrorist groups remain close, the U.N. has reported.