Terrorist organisation al-Qaeda has threatened to wage war on major Indian cities including New Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. The Islamist organisation says an attack on the country's top urban centres is the key to victory in the restive Kashmir valley.

The group released a video late on Tuesday, 26 December, via jihadist forums exhorting Islamists to focus on other Indian cities so as to keep the security personnel busy in others parts of the country.

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command in the subcontinent, Usama Mehmood says in the video that expanding the war in India is a necessity if Kashmir needs to be retrieved by Islamists. "India is already using 600,000 troops just to hold on to Kashmir," the top commander said in the footage.

"If it is attacked in Kolkata, Bangalore and New Delhi, it will come to its senses and release its grip on Kashmir."

Tensions in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have escalated in recent years thanks to the longstanding insurgency in the valley. The heavily disputed region is now largely identified by three areas — Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistan-administered Kashmir and independently governed region known as Azad Kashmir.

India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed neighbours, lay claim on the Muslim-majority territory. They have fought three wars since their independence in 1947 and two of those conflicts were centred on the Kashmir dispute.

"It is necessary that the jihadi movement becomes strong at the level of the subcontinent, and Muslims in the whole region stand behind the Kashmiri people," Mehmood said in the video, according to the Indian Express. The al-Qaeda faction does not have a strong militant presence in Kashmir as yet as the regional arm came into existence only in early 2017.

He added: "In the caravan of al-Qaeda, there were, and still are, many Mujahideen who migrated to Pakistan to fight for Kashmir, but were forced to shut down their operations by the Pakistan Army." This was the second video showcasing Mehmood released in the form of interview as the earlier version called on his supporters to reform the entire region into an "Islamic subcontinent".

"Look at America. In the same way, securing itself has become difficult for America throughout the world, the Indian army and Hindu government's peaceful world should be made a war zone," added Mehmood referring to the government led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India Kashmir unrest
A Kashmiri student throws a piece of stone during a protest in Srinagar Danish Ismail/Reuters