Washington: Al Qaeda, which has announced the creation of a separate wing for India, wants to portray Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an enemy of Islam and as such India should take its threat "very seriously", a well-known American counter-terror expert said on Friday even as the US tried to downplay the terrorist outfit's capabilities.
"This video, the first from (al Qaeda leader Ayman al-) Zawahiri this year, should be taken very seriously. Al Qaeda wants to portray Prime Minister Modi as an enemy of Islam," ex-CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who is considered to be one of the US' top experts on counter-terrorism, told a news agency.
"From its base in Pakistan and with its close links to Lashkar-e-Toiba, al Qaeda is a dangerous menace to India," Riedel said when asked about the latest video of Zawahiri announcing al Qaeda's creation of a new branch for the Indian subcontinent to wage jihad in India, including in Kashmir, Gujarat and Assam with the goal of establishing a caliphate and impose sharia ranging from Afghanistan to Myanmar.
Zawahiri had announced new branch of al Qaeda called "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent", "seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return Islamic rule, and imposing Sharia across the Indian subcontinent," in the video which was posted on various social media websites including YouTube.
Reiterating that the new Indian government should take the threat very seriously, Riedel said that New Delhi should increase its counter-terrorism co-operation with the US and Afghanistan.
After the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US has increased significantly.
The US, however, is yet verify the authenticity of the video or the creation of a new wing of al Qaeda.
"We haven't been able to verify that yet. Obviously, we're looking to see if there's more information we can get about this here," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference.
"We also don't regard this announcement as an indication of any new capabilities by al Qaeda," she said.
At the same time, she reiterated that the US remains committed to dismantling al Qaeda anywhere that it poses a threat to the US and make sure that it doesn't renew its threat to America.
US officials said the core of al Qaeda has been decimated.
"When we talk about core al Qaeda, it's al Qaeda's senior leadership in the tribal areas primarily of Pakistan, also some in Afghanistan, and that core leadership has been decimated. That's a fact," State Department Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said.
"The core of al Qaeda's leadership except for Zawahiri, of the senior leadership in al Qaeda in Pakistan has been taken off the battlefield," she said.
"We've constantly at the same time said we're concerned if they try to undertake operations in other places, if they as we know have affiliated groups in other places. So we're concerned about it. Again, we don't regard this announcement as an indication of any new capabilities by al Qaeda," she said.