Wednesday, July 7, 2010




In his message of February 12, 2007, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden, has spoken of a global Jihadi Intifada. Has he spoken of any special areas of focus for this Intifada?

Whenever he talks of a global jihad or now of a global Jihadi Intifada, Zawahiri makes it clear that this has to cover all lands in the world, which rightfully belong to Islam. After saying so, he specifies certain areas, which he thinks should receive special attention first. Of these, he gives the topmost priority to Afghanistan and Iraq. He says the future of Islam and of the global Intifada itself will be decided in those countries. If they can defeat the Americans there, the jihadis' victory in the rest of the lands will be assured. After mentioning these two countries, he mentions certain other areas specifically. He believes that the victory of the jihadis in these areas would also be crucial for the ultimate victory of Islam. These areas are Palestine, including Gaza, the Lebanon, Somalia, Algeria and Chechnya in Russia. He describes Somalia as the Southern garrison of Islam and Algeria as its Western garrison.

What does he mean by Jihadi Intifada?

A kind of struggle in which the role of motivated individual Muslims will become more important than that of organisations so that the weakening or collapse of an organisation does not result in a collapse of the Intifada. He wants the Intifada to acquire a momentum of its own as a result of the sacrifices of individual Muslims...... The importance of a central command and control in keeping the Intifada going is down-played. The motivation of individual Muslims is more important than any centralised command and control. He also projects the Intifada as a mix of military and non-military struggles. He says in his message of December 20, 2006: "We must bear arms. And if we are unable to bear them, then we must support those who carry them. This support comes in many forms and guises, so we must exploit all Dawah, student and union activities to back the Jihadi resistance....... The Muslim Ummah must exploit all methods of popular protest, like demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes, refusing to pay taxes, preventing cooperation with the security forces, refusing to provide the Crusaders with fuel, hitting traders who supply the Crusader forces, boycotting Crusader and Jewish products, and other ways of popular protest."

----- From my article of February 14,2007, titled JIHADI INTIFADA: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS available at


What we are witnessing in certain areas of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is the beginning of an intifada of Zawahiri's conception as propounded by him in his messages of February 12,2007,and earlier addressed to the Muslims of the world. One does not know whether Al Qaeda has had any role in the current violence in J&K, but its idea that the time had come to transform the jihad characterised by acts of terrorism into an intifada on a global scale characterised by leaderless street violence and the technique of a mix of military and non-military struggles has had some impact on the thinking and behaviour of some sections of the Kashmiri youth.

2. We are confronted with a situation marked by leaders without followers and followers without leaders. The traditional political leaders of J&K have no influence over the agitating youth. The agitating youth have no identifiable leaders to whom an approach can be made by the Government for bringing down the violence. Whatever be the extent of the Pakistani role in instigating the violence, it has acquired a momentum of its own unrelated to Pakistan. Islamabad has been exploiting the violence, but does not seem to be the originator of it.

3. The root cause is the growing perception among some sections of the youth that the security forces have been insensitive in performing their counter-insurgency duties and have been adopting objectionable methods ( e.g alleged false encounters) and using disproportionate force against the people. The current street violence has had no strategic political objective relating to the future political status of J&K. It is the result of an outburst of anger against the security forces. It does not have a strategic direction as yet, but may acquire one if it continues without the anger of the participating youth being pacified by the Government.

4. The anger of the youth might have been pacified initially if the Governments at Srinagar and New Delhi had shown some understanding of the anger and initiated measures to pacify it such as enquiries into allegations of excesses by the security forces, paying greater attention to complaints of violations of the human rights of the people and better ways of dealing with street protestors without using firearms. The succes of the last general elections in which nearly two-thirds of the voters participated and the perception that the ground situation was coming under control created a feeling of over-confidence in the Government at the centre, which slowed down the efforts to find a political soplution to the demands of the people and showed an increased insensitivity towards the anger of sections of the youth against the security forces.

5. The current movement started due to some anger against the security forces. Perceptions of political indifference to that anger has led to the anger turning against the political leadership. We find ourselves caught in a vicious circle. The more the publicly expressed anger against the security forces, the more the force used against the agitators and the more the force used against the agitators, the more the anger against the security forces.

6. When there was a decline in violence and we should have been taking advantage of it to deal with strategic issues relating to the future political set-up, we did not do so. Now, when the immediate objectiove should be to reduce the anger of the moment due to the grievances against the security forces, we are talking of long-term political issues. Better methods of street control to avoid the use of firearms, prompt and satisfactory attention to the complaints of the people regarding excessive use of force and violations of human rights, greater interactions between the Government and the agitating youth, greater control over our rhetoric to avoid demonisation of the agitators and attempts to remove the impression that the Government tends to bat for the errant elements in the security forces and not for the people are some of the immediate steps required. The use of the Army against the street agitators would be unwise unless the situation turms desperate leaving no other option. ( 8-7-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




“The Hindu” of July 7,2010, has carried an article by its terrorism analyst Praveen Swami titled “Pakistan’s Competing Jihadists.” The article refers to a message purported to have been issued before his death (confirmed by Al Qaeda) in a US Drone strike in May last by Sai’d al-Masri (al-Masri means the Egyptian) also known as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid. He was reputedly the No.3 in Al Qaeda and was in charge of operations in Afghanistan.

2.According to Shri Swami, an English translation of this message was made available to him “by the Washington DC based Middle East Media Research Institute”. This Institute is popularly known as MEMRI. It is alleged to have close links with the Israeli Military Intelligence and the Likud Party.

3. Wikipedia comments as follows on MEMRI: “The Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI for short, is a Middle Eastern press monitoring organization. Its headquarters is located in Washington, DC, with branch offices in Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Rome, Shanghai, Baghdad, and Tokyo. MEMRI was co-founded in 1998 by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence, and another Israeli Meyrav Wurmser. It provides a free source of English language translations of material published in Arabic and Persian script, and publishes its analyses and in-depth reports on its website - although it also offers specialized content for a fee. The organization's translations are regularly quoted by major international newspapers, and its work has generated strong criticism and praise. Some critics have accused MEMRI of selectively choosing for translation and dissemination the most extreme views from Arabic and Persian media, which portray the Arab and Muslim world in a negative light, while ignoring moderate views that are often found in the same media outlets. Other critics charge that while MEMRI does sometimes translate pro-US or pro-democracy voices in the regional media, it systematically leaves out intelligent criticism of Western-style democracy, US and Israeli policy and secularism. MEMRI's current mission statement states the organization "explores the Middle East through the region's media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu-Pashtun media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East." Until 2001, its Mission Statement stated that the institute also emphasizes "the continuing relevance of Zionism to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel." MEMRI's goals and emphasis have evolved over the years; it originally translated articles in both Arabic and Hebrew. Concerning this change in their ‘mission statement,’ Political Research Associates (PRA), which studies the US political right, notes that it occurred three weeks after the September 11 attacks, and considers MEMRI "was previously more forthcoming about its political orientation in its self-description and in staff profiles on its website." PRA considers that “MEMRI's slogan, ‘Bridging the Language Gap Between the Middle East and the West,’ does not convey the institute's stridently pro-Israel and anti-Arab political bias.” It further notes, that MEMRI's founders, Wurmser and Carmon, “are both hardline pro-Israel ideologues aligned with Israel's Likud party.”

4. So far as one knows, the message of al-Masri disseminated by MEMRI has not yet been authenticated by any official Western agency or non-governmental organization studying messages purported to have been disseminated by Al Qaeda, its leaders and as-Sahab, the propaganda wing of Al Qaeda, but one is subject to correction.

5. In its intro to Shri Swami’s article, “The Hindu” says: “ For the first time, the al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for an attack in India.” “The Hindu’s” reference is to the explosion in the German bakery in Pune on February 13 last. Mr.Swami himself writes in his article as follows: “ For the first time, though, al-Masri referred to the Pakistan-based jihadist Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri as an official part of the Al Qaeda--- and made public his role in an attack on India.”

6.According to Mr.Swami, the message as supplied by MEMRI says as follows: “ I bring you the good tidings that last February’s India operation was against a Jewish locale in the West of the Indian capital in the area of the German bakeries--- a fact that the enemy tried to hide---- and close to 20 Jews were killed in the operation, a majority of them from the so-called statelet, Israel. The person who carried out this operation was a heroic soldier from the “Soldiers of the Sacrifice Brigade”, which is one of the brigades of Qaedat al-Jihad ( the al-Qaeda’s formal name) in Kashmir under the command of commander Ilyas Kashmiri, may Allah preserve him.”

7. Commenting on the claim made in the message. Mr.Swami says: “ From the text, it is clear that al-Masri had little knowledge of the bombing of the German Bakery in Pune. Pune is not to the west of New Delhi; it is not Jewish-owned; and no Israelis were killed there. There would thus be no reason to take al-Masri’s claims seriously--- if it weren’t for the testimony of Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley.”

8. al-Masri was born in Egypt on December 17, 1955. Along with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No.2,he was a founding member of the Islamic Jihad of Egypt, which was alleged to have been involved in the assassination of then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. He was arrested by the Egyptian authorities along with Zawahiri. They managed to escape and reach Afghanistan in 1988 and join Osama bin Laden. When bin Laden went to the Sudan in 1991 after his passport was reportedly cancelled by the Saudi authorities, al-Masri joined him there and was appointed by bin Laden as an accountant of a business company started by him in the Sudan. In 1996, under US pressure, the Sudanese authorities asked bin Laden to leave the Sudan. He went to Afghanistan accompanied by al-Masri. Zawahiri joined them there. The US National Commission, which enquired into the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US homeland, described him as the Chief Financial Manager of Al Qaeda. In May 2007, bin Laden was reported to have designated him as in charge of Al Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan. In that capacity, he was responsible for co-ordination of operations with the Afghan Taliban.

9. In February 2009, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had received a message purported to be from Mustafa Abu-al Yazid, warning of more Mumbai-style attacks. The message, whose authenticity could not be established, sought to create an impression as if the 28/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai were carried out by Al Qaeda.

10.I had commented as follows on that mesaage : “ His warnings of more Mumbai-style attacks should be factored into our security arrangements and that means, strengthening physical security not only for possible Indian targets, but also for possible foreign targets such as those of Israel and the US. A rule of prudence is don’t ignore a threat unless and until it is proved to be false. The message needs careful analysis in co-operation with Al Qaeda experts in the US. The message suspiciously serves the Pakistani agenda of projecting the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai as executed by an international jihadi group based in Europe and inspired by Al Qaeda. There are suspicious elements in the message. Why was it disseminated through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and not initially through Al Jazeera? Why has it not yet appeared in the web sites associated with Al Qaeda? Why there was no reference to the Mumbai attack in the one message of Osama bin Laden and two of his No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri disseminated by Al Qaeda since the beginning of this year? Why the message has not been disseminated through As Sahab, the official propaganda organ of Al Qaeda.”

11. Subsequently, in April,2009, another message purporting to be from al-Masri circulated through the Internet. It read as follows: “. “We send a short and succinct message to the Indian Government. The Mujahideen will never allow you to invade the Muslims and their lands in Pakistan. If you beguile yourselves into doing this, know well that you will pay a very heavy price, which you will regret much. We will call upon our whole Muslim nation, its Mujahideen and its martyrdom squads against you. We will strike your interests and your economic lifelines wherever they may be until you are demolished and bankrupt as America is being demolished and going bankrupt today. The Islamic nation which produced the audacious and heroic martyrs of Bombay, who struck you in the midst of your homes and humiliated you, is able to produce thousands more like them. You cannot be more powerful or have more ability than the Soviet Union which was destroyed on the rocks of the Afghanistan mountains nor Americans whose nose we rubbed in the dirt of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.”

12. This message added to the suspicion that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence might be behind the dissemination of these messages in order to draw suspicion away from the LET for the terrorist strikes of 26/11 in Mumbai. After the Pune Bakery attack, Syed Saleem Shahzad , the Karachi correspondent of “Asia Times Online”, received an E-mail message purporting to be from Ilyas Kashmiri threatening terrorist strikes in India during the World Cup Hockey League and IPL cricket matches as well as during the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. In his dispatch to the Asia Times on this, Mr.Shahzad reported as follows: “ Asia Times Online has received a message from top guerrilla commander Ilyas Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade is an operational arm of al-Qaeda. The message arrived on Monday morning (Feb.15), shortly after the deadly weekend bombing of the German Bakery in the western Indian city of Pune. The message does not specifically claim responsibility for the bombing, but implies the Brigade's involvement.”

13. Even after the July,2006, explosions in the Mumbai suburban trains, a person, who gave his name as Abu al Hadeed, had rung up the office of the Current News Service (CNS) in Srinagar claiming responsibility in the name of what he described as Al Qaeda of J&K. However, indigenous Kashmiri organisations ridiculed the claim and said that there was no such organisation in the State.

14.On June 8, 2007, the same news agency is reported to have received a statement in Urdu recorded in a CD in the name of one Abu Abdal Rehman al-Ansari, described as the Amir of Al Qaeda fil Hind (Al Qaeda in India). The statement was read out by a masked gunman, who gave his name as Abu Ibrahim al-Asim before a camera. Whereas the 2006 statement was in the name of Al Qaeda of J&K, the statement of June 8, 2007, was in the name of Al Qaeda of India. Both the statements had referred to al-Ansari as the Amir of Al Qaeda. The June 8 statement pledged to wage jihad not only on India, but also against all infidels, apostates and hypocrites and against "enemies masqueradng as friends" . It criticised both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference and the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council headed by Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

15. There are two types of messages purporting to be from Al Qaeda relating to India. The first are video or audio messages of Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri relating to the global jihad and the global intifada in which there are references to India, including Kashmir. These have been authenticated by Western intelligence agencies on the basis of voice recognition. They are in the form of general criticism of India or general threats and not specific.

16. The second are messages claiming responsibility on behalf of Al Qaeda for specific acts of terrorism in India such as the Mumbai suburban train explosions of July 2006, the Mumbai terrorist strikes of 26/11 and the Pune German bakery explosion and warning of future acts of terrorism against global sports events in India. These are messages circulated through the Internet or through phone calls by persons whose voices could not be identified. There is no way of establishing the authenticity of these messages. We must take them seriously for further investigation and strengthening physical security. At the same time, we should take care not to walk into any trap of the ISI to divert suspicion away from the LET and other Pakistani jihadi organizations and from the ISI for serious acts of terrorism in Indian territory by creating an impression that those were carried out by Al Qaeda.

17. It is quite possible that there was an active role of Al Qaeda in acts of terrorism in Indian territory, including Jammu & Kashmir. It has been particularly keen to attack Jewish targets in India, including the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who had orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, had admitted to have once visited India and had told US interrogators of Al Qaeda’s intention for an attack on the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. But it is doubtful whether Al Qaeda is as yet in a position to organize a major strike in Indian territory on its own without the collaboration of the LET and other Pakistani organizations. We should not walk into any ISI trap for creating an impression that Al Qaeda has supplanted the ISI’s surrogates such as the LET. ( 7-7-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )