NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A group of Indian Islamic militants, operating out of Pakistan, has called for attacks on non Muslims in the region in retaliation for U.S.-led air strikes on fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The head of the little-known Ansar al-Tawhid fi’Bilad al-Hind urged Muslims to kill foreigners and other infidels in mainly Hindu India where Muslims have largely stayed away from global jihad.
“If you are in the fortunate position to kill an American or European, whether French or Australian or Canadian, or other unbelievers who have declared war on the Islamic State, then do so,” said Maulana Abdul Rehman al-Nadwi al-Hindi in a 30-minute video posted online last week.
Indian security analysts said that Maulana Abdul Rehman is a pseudonym for fugitive jihadist Sultan Abdul Kadir Armar, a former resident of southern India who attended an Islamist seminary before going to Pakistan.
“Kill the idol worshippers wherever you find them ... shoot them if you can, stab them, throw stones at their heads, poison them, run them over, burn their fields - and if you are unable ... spit in their faces,” al-Hindi said, referring to Hindus.
The emergence of a Islamic State-aligned militant group in India comes weeks after al Qaeda announced the formation of an Indian branch, aiming to rouse the world’s third largest Muslim population into action.
“There is no doubt that the radicalisation process has begun in different parts of the country. Islamic fundamentalists are seeking to indoctrinate Indian Muslims,” said Ajay Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi which monitors militant groups across South Asia.
The rapid rise of the Islamic State has evoked admiration among some groups in India and the flags of the insurgent group have appeared at rallies in Indian Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state and the site of a nearly 25-year armed revolt.
The push for new jihadi recruits comes at a time of increased tension between Muslims and Hindus in India following the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister in May. Some of Modi’s Hindu nationalist followers have been stirring up communal differences.
India has long believed that its democracy provided a platform for Muslims and other minority groups to address grievances and that they didn’t have to turn to violent jihad to pursue their aims.
Modi said last month that al Qaeda would struggle to recruit members from India’s 175-million strong Muslim community and praised Muslims for their commitment to fight for the country.
Two suspected al Qaeda supporters were killed when a bomb they were making exploded in a house in the state of West Bengal on Oct. 2, police told Reuters. Police said they found documents linked to al Qaeda and Chechen rebels.
Additional reporting by Sujoy Dhar in KOLKATA; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Jeremy Laurence