In a video message released on Wednesday by the al-Hurr Media, the official media wing of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, the al-Qaeda allied group’s spokesperson Abu Ubaida announced the name of the new emir and deputy emir.
The video message, which is titled “He fulfilled his promise” and is around 11 minutes in duration, was released on the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Kashmir.
Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, or AGH in short, is an al-Qaeda allied jihadist group which operates in India-controlled Kashmir and is against India as well as Pakistan/pro-Pakistan groups operating in Kashmir and is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Kashmir. Former emir of AGH, Zakir Musa, was killed on 23rd May in Pulwama district of Kashmir following a gunfight with Indian security forces. Massive riots broke out in the Kashmir valley following the killing of Musa.
Scenes from the funeral of al-Qaeda's man in Kashmir, Zakir Musa. pic.twitter.com/rvdWxQkk4z
— F. Jeffery (@Natsecjeff) May 24, 2019
Now, as expected, AGH has announced its new emir, named Abdul Hameed Lelhari, who previously served as deputy emir to Zakir Musa.
In the video, AGH spokesperson Abu Ubaida also announces Ghazi Ibrahim Khalid was new deputy emir. The video also contains an audio tape, presumably recorded just hours before Musa’s death, in which the former AGH emir can be heard trying to convince a Hizbul Mujahideen militant to join AGH. Hizbul Mujahideen is a pro-Pakistan militant group that primarily operates in the India and Pakistan controlled Kashmir region and has its leaders based in Pakistan.
The new AGH video also contains tribute paid to slain Zakir Musa. Some screenshots from the tribute section of the video:
Just hours after the AGH video release, a promotional video titled “Soldiers of Ghazwa-e-Hind” was released by al-Qaeda’s official as-Sahab Media group, serving as an announcement for an upcoming video focused on Kashmir. In the promotional video a militant with his face blurred can be seen making an address. The video identifies the militant as Faisal Ishfaq Butt and claims he is from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.
While talking to ITCT Newsdesk, ITCT Deputy Director and Head of South Asia Desk, Faran Jeffery said, “We expected Hameed Lelhari to be named the new emir of AGH and it is symbolic that the announcement came from AGH on first day of Eid in Kashmir. AGH wants Kashmiris to see this announcement as an Eid gift. But what is perhaps even more interesting is the fact that al-Qaeda announced a new forthcoming video focused on Kashmir just couple of hours after the AGH video release. This, of course, is no coincidence. This was perfectly timed by al-Qaeda to send a subtle message to its support base. It is well known that AGH is an al-Qaeda allied group and maintains close links with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. The new video announcement by as-Sahab Media is supposed to be detailing the ordeal of a Kashmiri militant that the video claims is from Srinagar. But what I’ll be looking out for is whether al-Qaeda pays tribute to Zakir Musa or mentions AGH in any way in the forthcoming video. The video is expected to be released very soon.”
UPDATE – 6th June:
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), through its official as-Sahab Media group, released a new 13 minute audio tape in which AQIS spokesperson Usama Mahmood eulogizes slain former emir of AGH, Zakir Musa.
In the new audio tape, AQIS spokesperson calls on Kashmiri Muslims to embrace the cause of Zakir Musa and even compares Musa with Osama bin Laden. In the audio message, Mahmood also mentions slain Pakistani cleric from Red Mosque, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, as well as slain commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Burhan Wani.
While Mahmood doesn’t explicitly call AGH an official branch of AQ in Kashmir, he goes to great length in paying tribute to Zakir Musa and his group, all but confirming the strong link between AGH and AQIS.
This story may be updated in case of new information.