Albuquerque Journal

Al-Qaida leader appears in video marking 20th anniversar­y of 9/11


BEIRUT — Al-Qaida leader Ayman alZawahri appeared in a video marking the 20th anniversar­y of the Sept. 11 attacks, months after rumors spread that he was dead.

The SITE Intelligen­ce Group that monitors jihadist websites said the video was released Saturday. In it, al-Zawahri said, “Jerusalem Will Never be Judaized,” and he praised al-Qaida attacks including one that targeted Russian troops in Syria in January.

SITE said al-Zawahri also noted the U.S. 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. But he did mention a Jan. 1 attack that targeted Russian troops on the edge of the northern

Syrian city of Raqqa.

Rumors have spread since late 2020 that al-Zawahri had died of an illness. Since then, no video or proof of life surfaced, until Saturday.

“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.

Al-Zawahri’s speech was recorded in a 61-minute, 37-second video produced by the group’s as-Sahab Media Foundation.

In recent years, al-Qaida has faced competitio­n in jihadi circles from its rival, the Islamic State group. IS rose to prominence by seizing large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” and extending affiliates to multiple countries across the region.

IS’ physical “caliphate” was crushed in Iraq and Syria, although its militants are still active and carrying out attacks. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of IS was killed by U.S. special forces in a raid in northweste­rn Syria in October 2019.

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