The UN sanctions monitoring team’s latest report in July this year concluded that AQIS reportedly has 180-400 fighters, primarily from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan.
Within hours of US President Joe Biden announcing the death of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a precision drone strike, speculation circled around a possible successor, with another Egyptian Al Qaeda figure, Mohammed Salahaldin Zidan, who goes by the assumed name of Saif al-Adel, emerging a likely candidate, according to security officials who monitor the region.
There is no clarity on current whereabouts of Adel, who for long was rumoured to be in Iran.
The people cited above also said that al-Zawahiri’s death will hit morale of the group’s supporters and cadres in India but there is also the concern of disenchanted fighters possibly shifting allegiance to the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP).
An official involved in tracking global terrorism and the activities of international terror groups, on condition of anonymity, said: “Considering the operational capabilities of ISKP to mount spectacular attacks, any possible tilt from Al Qaeda ranks to Islamic State warrants serious attention.”
The Indian intelligence community is keeping a close watch on Al Qaeda’s activities as Adel, a veteran field expert and former lieutenant colonel in the Egyptian special forces, has spearheaded brazen attacks such as the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Adel also fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s and reportedly trained some of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks despite having initially opposed the operation.