Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over leadership of the terrorist organization after the death of Osama bin Laden, has appeared in a video released on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Zawahiri was believed to be dead, but referenced events that took place after he was said to have been killed.
”Amid rumors of his death, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri shown in a new 60-minute video, this time offering some evidence that he is not dead – particularly, reference to events after December when rumors of death surfaced,” US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist groups online, director Rita Katz tweeted.
17) Amid rumors of his death, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri shown in new 60-minute video, this time offering some evidence that he is not dead–particularly, reference to events after December, when rumors of death surfaced. (A speech from March offered no such proof) pic.twitter.com/IXpz6wIZvh
— Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) September 11, 2021
The video, released by As Sahab Media, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, was titled “Jerusalem will not be Judaized.”
“Zawahiri mentioned a raid on a Russian military base by the al Qaeda-aligned Hurras al-Deen in Syria, which the group said occurred on Jan. 1 — after rumors began circulating of his death in November,” Fox News reports. “Katz said while Zawahiri did discuss the U.S’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, she noted he did not talk about the Taliban’s return to power in the country.”
Katz explained that it is possible he is still dead, but it would have had to have taken place in or after January 2021, based on the content of the video.
“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,” she said. “Thus, he could still be dead, though if so, would have been at some point in or after Jan 2021.”
Katz added, “intelligence agencies have, as of yet, offered no proof or solid assessments that Zawahiri is dead, leaving the question of his current status in the air.”
“Tragic as it is to say, this 9/11 anniversary is a uniquely positive one for al-Qaeda. As one AQ supporter wrote, the US leaving Afghanistan is a validation of Bin Laden’s vision and the ‘blessed’ 9/11 attacks, and that ‘Afghanistan is the beginning,’” she wrote.