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Al Qaeda Launches New Militant Branch In Asia
India has ordered several states to be on increased alert after al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri launched a new branch of the militant Islamist group in Asia.
A video posted on jihadist forums features the 63-year-old saying the new force would "crush the artificial borders" dividing Muslim populations in the Indian subcontinent.
Al Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where its surviving leadership is thought to be hiding, but Qedat al Jihad would operate in India, Bangladesh and Burma - also known as Myanmar.
Zawahiri said: "This entity was not established today, but is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity."
He called on Muslims "to wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty and to revive its caliphate".
Since the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, al Qaeda has been eclipsed by its own offshoots in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and now by the Islamic State fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Qedat al Jihad will be led by senior Pakistani militant Asim Umar.
The 55-minute video features Zawahiri and Umar, along with a new group spokesman identified as Usama Mahmoud.
It was produced by al Qaeda's As Sahan Media Foundation and has been widely distributed, according to the US-based SITE terrorism monitoring group.
Zawahiri said the regions of Assam, Gujarat and Kashmir, which all have large Muslim populations, would be targets for the new organisation.
"In the wake of this al Qaeda video, we will be on a higher alert," S.K. Nanda, the senior bureaucrat in the home department of Gujarat, said.
"We will work closely with the central government to tackle any threat posed to the state."
Gujarat is also the home state of India's new prime minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist criticised over riots in 2002 that left hundreds of Muslims dead.
Kashmir has an active armed insurgency against Indian rule and there have been terrorist attacks in other areas - including the 2008 Mumbai attacks which saw 166 people killed.
Zawahiri remains America's most wanted fugitive. The State Department "Rewards for Justice" programme has a $25m bounty on his head.