(AP): Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri appeared in a new video released on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, attacks, reported international news agency Associated Press.
Last November, rumors spread that Osama bin Laden’s former No 2 had died from an illness though senior leadership never commented. Since then, no video or proof of life surfaced, until Saturday.
According to SITE Intelligence Group – that monitors jihadist websites, al-Zawahri makes references that extend to at least January. He said that “Jerusalem will never be Judaised,” and praised Al Qaeda attacks including one that targeted Russian troops in Syria in January.
SITE said al-Zawahri also noted the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. It added that his comments do not necessarily indicate a recent recording, as the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban was signed in February 2020.
Al-Zawahri made no mention of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul last month, SITE added. Al-Zawahri’s speech was recorded in a 61-minute, 37-second video produced by the group’s As-Sahab Media Foundation.
“He could still be dead, though if so, it would have been at some point in or after Jan 2021,” tweeted Rita Katz, SITE’s director.
19) However, Zawahiri doesn't mention Taliban's Afghanistan victory, and his talk of US "making its exit from Afghanistan" could have been said early as Feb 2020 upon Doha Agreement. Thus, he could still be dead, though if so, would have been at some point in or after Jan 2021
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) September 11, 2021
In recent years, Al Qaeda has faced competition in jihadi circles from its rival, the militant Islamic State (IS) group. IS rose to prominence by seizing large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
IS’s physical ‘caliphate’ was crushed in Iraq and Syria, though its militants are still active and carrying out attacks. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of IS was killed by US special forces in a raid in northwestern Syria in October 2019.