Indian prime minister says al-Qaida holds no appeal for Indian Muslims



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NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said al-Qaida is "delusional" if it believes it holds any appeal for India's large Muslim population.

Earlier this month, the head of the extremist group, Ayman al-Zawahiri, said in a video that it had created an Indian branch that would bring Islamic rule to the entire subcontinent.

"If anyone thinks Indian Muslims will dance to their tune, they are delusional. Indian Muslims will live for India. They will die for India," Modi said in an interview with CNN, excerpts of which were aired Friday. The full interview is to be broadcast Sunday.

Most terrorist threats in India have emanated from Pakistan or Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region claimed by both countries. Al-Qaida's influence there is thought to be minimal.

Many analysts in India dismissed al-Zawahiri's video as a publicity stunt that appeared directed more at his own rivals in the international jihadi movement.

Muslims constitute about 13 percent of India's population of nearly 1.2 billion. The country has largely seen itself as beyond the recruiting territory of international jihadist groups like al-Qaida. Over the last few months, however, the Islamic State group has gained at least a handful of followers in India. Last month, an Indian engineering student who was thought to have joined the group was reported killed.

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