In this image taken from video, Ayman al-Zawahri, head of al-Qaida, delivers a statement in a video which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, released Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014.
NEW DELHI, INDIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Al-Qaida has expanded into the Indian subcontinent, the leader of the terror group said in a video statement released Thursday, with a regional group that will "wage jihad against its enemies."
In the video, which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, Ayman al-Zawahri said al-Qaida had been preparing for years to set up in the region. The new group "is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity," al-Zawahri said.
While the statement referred to the "Indian subcontinent" — a term that most commonly refers to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — al-Zawahri's comments were widely seen as directed at India, a largely Hindu nation with a large Muslim minority.
Until recently, India had largely seen itself as beyond the recruiting territory of international jihadists like al-Qaida. However, the Islamic State militant group, which has seized control of large parts of Iraq and Syria, is increasingly believed to be gaining followers in India. Last month, an Indian engineering student who had traveled to Iraq with friends, and who was thought to have joined the Islamic State, was reported killed.
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Thursday morning with top security and intelligence officials to discuss the threat. A spokesman for India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the statement was "a matter of serious concern. But there is nothing to worry about. We have a strong government at the federal level."
India, though, has a notoriously underfunded and ill-trained security infrastructure. In 2008, a small group of Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai, India's financial hub, effectively shutting down the city for days and leaving 166 people killed.
New Delhi has also waged a long-running insurgency war in Kashmir, India's only majority-Muslim state, with militants fighting to bring independence to the Himalayan region or join it to neighboring Pakistan. The fighting has left thousands of people dead.
Some analysts saw the announcement, which showed al-Zawahri speaking in front of a dark curtain, as an effort to revive the fortunes of al-Qaida, which has been largely eclipsed, at least publicly, by the Islamic State, the militant group that in Syria and Iraq that recently executed two American journalists.
"This may be ruse for al-Zawahri to enhance his diminishing clout among Arab Muslims and Pakistani mujahedeen who are veering in a big way toward the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," said Rana Banerji, a prominent Indian intelligence and security analyst.
AP Writers Ashok Sharma and Nirmala George contributed to this report.