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Al Qaeda leader, thought to be dead, surfaces in video on 9/11 anniversary

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, rumoured to be dead, was seen in a new video on released on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks the online activity of jihadist groups, reported that al-Zawahiri spoke on a number of issues, including a raid on a Russian military base, in the new hour-long video released by al Qaeda. Rita Katz, SITE’s director, noted that al-Zawahiri made no mention of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. Katz pointed out al-Zawahiri was shown in the video even though reports last November claimed he had died. He last appeared in a video message for the group on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

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In June this year, a United Nations report said that a significant part of the al Qaeda leadership resides in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region, including al-Zawahiri, who is “probably alive but too frail to be featured in propaganda”. “One member state reports that he is probably alive but too frail to be featured in propaganda,” the UN report said, without identifying the country.

“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),” Katz said in a series of tweets. “Event Zawahiri referenced was a raid on a Russian military base by the al-Qaeda-aligned Hurras al-Deen in Syria, which it claimed on Jan 1 (after rumors/reporting of his death surfaced in Nov). Also introduces Zawahiri with “May Allah Protect Him”,” she added.

Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian who succeeded Osama Bin Laden as the chief of the group behind the 9/11 attacks, also talked about last month’s US withdrawal from Afghanistan in the new 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. Thus, he could still be dead, though if so, would have been at some point in or after Jan 2021,” Katz pointed out. “Nonetheless, 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.”

Al-Zawahiri has faded in prominence in recent years and experts have said that he is believed to be in poor health. Al Qaeda, however, has not issued any confirmation of the purported death of al-Zawahiri through its usual media channels. The New York Times reported in November 2020 that al Qaeda’s deputy leader Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was secretly killed in Tehran in August by two Israeli operatives at Washington’s behest.

Bin Laden’s son, Hamza, who became a leading figure inside al Qaeda, was later killed. Following the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda gained prominence and the terror group gathered affiliates across the Middle East. The Islamic State was such a group, whose filmed beheadings and takeover of large parts of Iraq and Syria shocked the world

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