Former Nato Allied Land Command leader General John W Nicholson expressed growing concerns regarding al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) activities in Bangladesh.
In a February 22 interview with Combating Terrorism Center's (CTC) magazine Sentinel
, the Commander of Resolute Support and US Forces-Afghanistan said: “With our growing relationship with India, we are concerned about the instability in Bangladesh, and we have seen a lot of AQIS interference in Bangladesh.”
Since al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's announcement in September 2014 regarding the formation of AQIS to move the group’s activities into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the governments of Bangladesh and the US refused to admit their presence.
On June 30 last year, however, the US government issued a statement blacklisting AQIS as a “foreign terrorist organisation” and its leader, Indian-born Asim Umar, a “specially designated global terrorist.”
AQIS involvement in Bangladesh surfaced through Dawahilallah, a forum of AQIS or local al-Qaeda representatives Ansar al-Islam.
In October last year, forum members instigated attacks on the Hindus of Nasirnagar when the local Muslim hardliners attacked the area, protesting an allegedly blasphemous Facebook post by a Hindu youth.
Subsequently, in December 15, al-Qaeda published a public statement urging the Muslim youths of Bangladesh to join the fight to avenge the persecution against the Rohingyas.
Speaking of a US Forces raid in Shorabak district of Kandahar in October 2015, Nicholson claimed they had found congratulatory notes going back and forth between AQIS and al-Qaeda about some of their activities in Bangladesh.
Though he did not specify the exact contents of the notes, it is highly possible it was in reference to the militant activities carried out in Bangladesh in the October-December period last year.
“Of course, al-Qaeda is very focused right now on the survival of their senior leadership, but they are connected to these guys as well. They all share the same agenda and the same focus,” cautioned Nicholson.