New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack

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New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack
AlQaeda militants, colluding with serving naval officers, tried to hijack #Pakistan frigate http://t.co/ER1QZqk2Cm http://t.co/5MdigMzTSy
Fishing boats are moored near a naval dockyard in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on September 9, 2014. Taliban militants attacked a Karachi naval dockyard in a raid which left a Pakistani officer and two insurgents dead, officials said September 9. An officer and six sailors were also wounded in the attack early September 6 on the high security facility, a navy spokesman said, adding that four attackers had been captured alive. AFP PHOTO/ Asif HASSAN (Photo credit should read ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Fishing boats are moored near a naval dockyard in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on September 9, 2014. Taliban militants attacked a Karachi naval dockyard in a raid which left a Pakistani officer and two insurgents dead, officials said September 9. An officer and six sailors were also wounded in the attack early September 6 on the high security facility, a navy spokesman said, adding that four attackers had been captured alive. AFP PHOTO/ Asif HASSAN (Photo credit should read ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Fishing boats are moored near a naval dockyard in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on September 9, 2014. Taliban militants attacked a Karachi naval dockyard in a raid which left a Pakistani officer and two insurgents dead, officials said September 9. An officer and six sailors were also wounded in the attack early September 6 on the high security facility, a navy spokesman said, adding that four attackers had been captured alive. AFP PHOTO/ Asif HASSAN (Photo credit should read ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian plain-clothed police personnel escort alleged key member of the Indian Mujahideen militant outfit Ajaz Shaikh, 27, (C, face covered) as he is brought to a court in New Delhi on September 6, 2014. Indian police said September 6,2014 they had arrested an alleged key member of a homegrown Islamic militant group over a series of attacks, days after security was tightened following claims by Al-Qaeda that it had launched an Indian wing. Police identified the man as Ajaz Shaikh, 27, and said in a statement that he had worked as 'the logistics man' for transferring funds to the banned Indian Mujahideen group. Police accused Shaikh, arrested in northern Uttar Pradesh state, of being involved in several attacks including one outside India's biggest mosque in Delhi's old quarter in 2010 that wounded two Taiwanese and serial blasts the same year in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi that killed one person and injured dozens. AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian plain-clothed police personnel escort alleged key member of the Indian Mujahideen militant outfit Ajaz Shaikh, 27, (C, face covered) as he is brought to a court in New Delhi on September 6, 2014. Indian police said September 6,2014 they had arrested an alleged key member of a homegrown Islamic militant group over a series of attacks, days after security was tightened following claims by Al-Qaeda that it had launched an Indian wing. Police identified the man as Ajaz Shaikh, 27, and said in a statement that he had worked as 'the logistics man' for transferring funds to the banned Indian Mujahideen group. Police accused Shaikh, arrested in northern Uttar Pradesh state, of being involved in several attacks including one outside India's biggest mosque in Delhi's old quarter in 2010 that wounded two Taiwanese and serial blasts the same year in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi that killed one person and injured dozens. AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian plain-clothed police personnel escort alleged key member of the Indian Mujahideen militant outfit Ajaz Shaikh, 27, (C, face covered) as he is brought to a court in New Delhi on September 6, 2014. Indian police said September 6,2014 they had arrested an alleged key member of a homegrown Islamic militant group over a series of attacks, days after security was tightened following claims by Al-Qaeda that it had launched an Indian wing. Police identified the man as Ajaz Shaikh, 27, and said in a statement that he had worked as 'the logistics man' for transferring funds to the banned Indian Mujahideen group. Police accused Shaikh, arrested in northern Uttar Pradesh state, of being involved in several attacks including one outside India's biggest mosque in Delhi's old quarter in 2010 that wounded two Taiwanese and serial blasts the same year in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi that killed one person and injured dozens. AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
India's new al-Qaeda branch botches its first mission by raiding the wrong ship. https://t.co/gvQ8khRTnQ http://t.co/jfcxL15B0v
In this image taken from video, Ayman al-Zawahri, head of al-Qaida, delivers a statement in a video which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group, released Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Al-Qaida has expanded into the Indian subcontinent, the leader of the terror group, said with a united group that will "wage jihad against its enemies." Al-Zawahri said al-Qaida had been preparing for years to set up in the region. (AP Photo/Al-Qaida via SITE via APTN)
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By Maria Golovnina

(Reuters) - Al Qaeda's South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group.

The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, as saying a group of militants had succeeded in seizing control of the Pakistani frigate PNS Zulfiqar and tried to use it to attack nearby U.S. vessels.

"These mujahideen had taken control of the Pakistani ship, and they were advancing towards the American fleet when the Pakistani army stopped them," he said.

"As a result, the mujahideen, the lions of Allah and benefactors of the Ummah, sacrificed their lives for Allah, and the Pakistani soldiers spoiled their hereafter by giving up their lives in defense of the enemies of the Ummah the Americans."

SITE said Mahmoud's statement also provided a picture and a detailed layout of the PNS Zulfiqar.

The navy and the army's press wing were not immediately available for comment.

The naval yard on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast is a strategically important facility at the center of U.S.-Pakistani security, anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking cooperation.

The foiled attack comes at a time when regional powers are already concerned about stability as U.S.-led forces continue to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan, potentially creating a security gap for insurgents to exploit.

The attack, which lasted several hours, also shows just how much the Islamist militants are capable of striking at the heart of Pakistan's vast security apparatus and raises questions about the nuclear-armed nation's ability to guard its installations.

The Pakistani Taliban, closely allied with al Qaeda, had earlier said that the Sept. 6 attack was carried out with the help of insiders. Pakistan later arrested a number of navy personnel on suspicion of collaborating with the attackers.

Al Qaeda announced the formation of the new group on Sept. 4, with its chief, Ayman al-Zawahri, promising to spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across South Asia, home to more than 400 million Muslims.

Analysts say the move is part of al Qaeda's plan to take advantage of the planned withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan and boost its influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as well as India.

It also comes against the backdrop of a full-scale operation launched by Pakistan's military against Taliban militants in the lawless region of North Waziristan following a deadly attack on the airport in the city of Karachi in June.

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