Indian media: Security worry over 'al-Qaeda' video

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri announces the formation of an Indian branch of his militant group at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated handout video provided by SITE on September 4, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ayman al-Zawahiri has announced the formation of 'al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent'

Media are concerned over al-Qaeda's announcement of a new wing for the Indian subcontinent.

The Indian government has issued a countrywide security alert after the group's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a video message that the new wing - "al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent" - would "raise the flag of jihad" across South Asia.

Leading dailies have given prominent coverage to the story on their front pages.

"Al-Qaeda comes out of cold to call for jihad in India," says The Indian Express, while The Hindu's headline says: "India now in al-Qaeda sights".

Newspapers are urging the government to tighten security despite al-Qaeda's depleting strength in the region.

"The chilling reiteration of terrorist rhetoric should compel the [Narendra] Modi government to plug the gaps in India's security preparedness. India has made progress after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, but severe deficits remain… the government should know that there is not a moment to lose," says the Hindustan Times.

The paper also warns of the possibility of Pakistan-based militant groups helping al-Qaeda.

"Even if al-Qaeda is unable to wage jihad directly, Zawahiri's message may point to the possibility of indigenous and Pakistan-based elements stepping up jihad in India under the al-Qaeda banner in order to attract more recruits," it says.

The Asian Age echoes similar sentiments, saying India cannot "afford" to "drop" its guard in the fight against terrorism.

"The al-Qaeda announcement is to be taken very seriously as the implications of a wider jihadi movement in the country is a grave risk in the light of problems actively stoked over the years by Pakistan's [intelligence agency] ISI," the paper says.

'Pakistan connection'

Some experts say the possibility of al-Qaeda tying up with Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba "could spell trouble" for the Indian government.

Bruce Riedel, associated with the Brookings Institution, told The Hindu that Zawahiri's statement was "very worrisome" and could indicate "closer cooperation" between the two militant groups.

The media are also analysing the reason behind the message and its timing.

The Tribune feels the timing is meant to target the upcoming legislative assembly elections in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The statement "has the potential to stir more trouble" ahead of elections in the state, it says.

Most leading newspapers see al-Qaeda's announcement as "reclaiming global terror turf" in view of the growing prominence of Sunni militant group, the Islamic State.

And finally, a new UN report says India witnessed the highest number of suicide cases in the world in 2012, according to the Deccan Herald.

The report says that 258,075 people committed suicide in India in 2012, out of which 99,977 were women.

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