On 15 June, Al Qaeda announced that it has a new branch, Al Qaeda in Kashmir (AQK), according to a report in Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor [subscription needed]. The group is apparently led by Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, who claimed responsibility for the February bombing of the German Bakery in Pune, India. Police investigations into the incident have tended to point towards the Indian Mujahideen, however, and Kashmiri has a habit of claiming responsibility for every major attack that happens in South and Central Asia, including the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, widely known to have been the work of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).
Kashmiri has clearly been a big player in the subcontinental jihad for some time. He led the 313 Brigade in Kashmir, before shifting over to Waziristan for a while, and now being named leader of AQK. Fortunately, there are analysts who can be bothered to sift through the endless stream of new groups and monikers and allegiances that appear and disappear in the world of the jihad, but Allah knows, it’s a pretty thankless task. There are, for instance, two different 313 Brigades according to this report – one which is directly linked to Al Qaeda and focused on Pakistan, and one focused on Kashmir which is part of the HuJI (another group with all sorts of wings and tentacles). I like to think the jihadists have some fun inventing these myriad groups just to send Western analysts off on goose chases.
The announcement of AQK is significant, however, since it shows Al Qaeda trying to bolster what it clearly thinks is an emerging front in the global jihad: India.