NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - A regional branch of Al-Qaeda urged Muslims in India to revolt and carry out lone wolf attacks, a US monitoring site reported, days after the rival militant movement Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for Bangladesh's worst militant attack.
The call by Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) follows warnings by security officials and experts that the two groups are trying to outdo each other in the region and claim the mantle of global terror.
An online audio message purportedly from Asim Umar, the head of AQIS, said Indian Muslims must follow the example of youths in Europe and strike against Indian police and senior officials, holding them responsible for communal violence.
"Start Jihad with the strength which Allah has already granted you. Kill the senior officers of institutions and administrative departments that get (people to) start these riots," AQIS said, according to US intelligence group SITE.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the recording.
In it, AQIS said Muslims were present in every part of India and must use their strength to reclaim power in a country they ruled for centuries. "Even if you come out carrying merely knives and swords then, history bears witness, Hindus cannot withstand you," Umar said.
Since its formation in 2014, AQIS has been trying to incite attacks, but India's Muslims, who number more than 160 million, have been largely unmoved. Only a handful are known to have tried to join ISIS, according to Indian officials.
An Indian interior ministry spokesman said he had seen media reports about the latest warning from Al-Qaeda, but he had no immediate comment to offer. Security agencies were aware of the matter, he added.
Both Al-Qaeda and ISIS have claimed a series of killings in Bangladesh over the past year, attacking liberals and foreigners. On Friday, militants stormed a restaurant in Dhaka and killed 20 people, most of them foreigners, in an attack claimed by ISIS.
Bangladesh's government has long denied the involvement of foreign Islamist groups in the violence, but some security experts said the restaurant attack undermined that position.
"I think it demonstrates that competition between AQ and the Islamic State isn't necessarily a good thing, as Islamic State in Bangladesh clearly planned and attack that would outdo al Qaeda in terms of carnage and international attention," said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior editor at The Long War Journal that tracks global terror groups, referring to ISIS by its other acronym.