Al Qaeda To Form Indian Wing; Dozens Killed in Coordinated Ghazni Attacks; Pakistani Protestors Told to Pull Back

India Al Qaeda to form India wing, states on alert The Indian government ordered several states to be vigilant after al Qaeda announced the formation of a militant wing in the Indian subcontinent, a senior government official said on Thursday (Hindustan Times, NDTV). In a video posted online, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is ...

-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images

India

Al Qaeda to form India wing, states on alert

The Indian government ordered several states to be vigilant after al Qaeda announced the formation of a militant wing in the Indian subcontinent, a senior government official said on Thursday (Hindustan Times, NDTV). In a video posted online, al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is pictured above in a screen grab from a video released on Jan. 6, 2006) promised to spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across the "Indian subcontinent." Zawahiri added that the new wing would rescue Muslims from injustice and oppression, and bring glad tidings for Muslims "in Burma [Myanmar], Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir" (Indian Express). In his video, Zawahiri also made two references to the western state of Gujarat, the home state of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian Home Ministry asked the country’s Intelligence Bureau to verify the authenticity of the al Qaeda video on Thursday (Indian Express). As Sahab — al Qaeda’s official media outlet — announced the creation of a group called "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent." An official at Darul Uloom Deoband — one of the world’s most influential Islamic seminaries, located in northern India — said extremist groups routinely try to recruit young, poor, and uneducated Muslim boys as militants, and further said: "We inform our students about the dangers faced by Islam, and rising militancy is one of the key subjects discussed in the seminary" (Livemint).

Australian PM talks about ‘abundance of opportunities’ in India

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrived in Mumbai on Thursday for a two-day visit to India, during which the two countries are looking to sign a civil nuclear deal (Economic Times). Prior to his departure to India, Abbott said: "I am hoping to sign a nuclear co-operation agreement that will enable uranium sales by Australia to India" (NDTV). Both India and Australia started negotiating the civil nuclear deal in 2012, after Australia lifted a ban to sell uranium to India, even though the country was not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Australia is the world’s third-largest producer of uranium.

Abbott, who met Australian and Indian business leaders on Thursday, said: "The purpose of this trip, as far as I’m concerned, is to acknowledge the importance of India in the wider world, acknowledge the importance of India to Australia’s future" (Livemint). He said further: "There is an abundance of opportunities here in India. I am determined to make the most of them." Abbott also told the audience about his backpacker days in India in 1981, where he had watched a bullock cart carry material into a nuclear power station. Speaking of modern-day India, he said the country’s nuclear power was "now more sophisticated than ever" (Sydney Morning Herald). Abbott is scheduled to meet top Indian leaders in Delhi, including Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, President Pranab Mukherjee, and Vice President Hamid Ansari, on Friday.

Indian government sets up panel to review environmental laws

India’s central government has created a high-level committee under former Cabinet Secretary T. S. R. Subramanian to review various environmental laws in order to bring them in line with "current requirements," according to news reports on Wednesday (Indian Express, Economic Times). In an order issued on Aug. 29, the Ministry of Environment and Forests listed five laws — the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 — for the committee to suggest amendments on and submit a report based on their findings in two months. The ministry order said: "Based on experience gained in the implementation of aforesaid Acts, it has been decided to constitute a high-level committee to review these Acts and suggest appropriate amendments to bring them in line with their objectives" (NDTV).

— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan 

Afghanistan 

Bonus Read: "Does Afghanistan’s New Mining Law Benefit Its Mafias?," Lynne O’Donnell (SouthAsia).

Dozens killed in coordinated Ghazni attacks

Nearly 30 people were killed and more than 150 were injured in the capital city of Afghanistan’s central Ghazni province, on Thursday in coordinated attacks by Taliban militants on the local National Directorate of Security (NDS) office and a nearby police station (BBC, Pajhwok, TOLO News). According to media reports about the incidents, all 19 attackers were killed, as were eight police officers and two civilians. Yet with many of the injured in critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise.

The attacks in Ghazni reportedly began when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the back of the NDS building and other militants then tried to storm into the facility (AP, RFE/RL). That was followed by another powerful blast outside a police station that was home to a quick reaction force; an intense firefight between the attackers and the security forces inside followed. It was the second such attack on a provincial NDS facility in less than a week (Reuters). Bonus Read: "Afghan forces hunt militant leader once welcomed under peace process," Mirwais Harooni (Reuters).

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force also reported on Thursday that a coalition soldier had been killed in an insurgent attack in the eastern part of Afghanistan, but further details were not provided (TOLO News).

Presidential campaigns move forward with power-sharing agreement 

Afghanistan’s TOLO News reported on Wednesday that "after days of unproductive negotiations," Abdullah Abdullah’s and Ashraf Ghani’s presidential campaigns appeared together after a meeting with President Hamid Karzai earlier that day and "expressed renewed hope that their power-sharing arrangement would soon be finalized" (TOLO News). According to spokesmen for both camps, a four-person committee that includes representatives for the two candidates would meet as early as Thursday to put the finishing touches on the national unity government agreement that was negotiated in August.  

The progress comes as NATO begins a two-day summit in Wales to discuss, among other things, the military alliance’s long-term strategic cooperation with and assistance to Afghanistan (AP, Pajhwok). As the presidential election has not yet been decided, Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi is representing the country at the meeting. Bonus Read: "How to Build a New Afghanistan," Tamim Asey (SouthAsia).

Pakistan

Bonus Read: "Malala’s Mother Learns to Read," Jodi Kantor (NYT). 

Protestors told to pull back as leaders negotiate with government

Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri, the leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek political parties, respectively, told their supporters on Wednesday to vacate the area around Pakistan’s parliament as they begin negotiations with leaders from the country’s other political parties (AP, NYT). According to the New York Times, formal talks between representatives for the government and the protestors are expected to start on Thursday. The move comes three weeks after Khan and Qadri began their protests against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and paralyzed the capital.

Saudi Arabia beheads Pakistani for drug trafficking

Izzat Gul, a Pakistani citizen, was beheaded in Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jeddah on Thursday after being sentenced to death for drug trafficking (AFP). In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said Gul had been convicted of trafficking a "large amount" of heroin, though further details were not given. Gul’s death raises the number of executions carried out in Saudi Arabia this year to 46, according to Agence France Press, and he is at least the second Pakistani to be executed by the kingdom this year. A Pakistani national was beheaded in August for killing an Afghan man (AJE).

Three more polio cases detected in Pakistan

Pakistani health authorities are gearing up for another vaccination campaign in the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas after two new polio cases were reported in Khyber agency and one was noted in South Waziristan on Wednesday (ET). According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, of the 122 polio cases recorded this year, 89 of them have been in the tribal regions. The World Health Organization has also said that polio remains endemic in North and South Waziristan, as well as Khyber, where a lack of immunization has led to outbreaks.

— Bailey Cahall

Edited by Peter Bergen.

Neeli Shah is a Washington D.C.-based economics, law, and policy professional. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Twitter: @neelishah

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