Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in a video released Saturday — the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — raising questions over his rumored death.
The US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist groups online, tweeted about the existence of the video, saying Zawahiri made comments about events that occurred after speculation first emerged that he’d died.
”Amid rumours 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,” SITE director Rita Katz tweeted.
The video was entitled “Jerusalem will not be Judaized” and was released by As Sahab Media, the terror group’s propaganda arm.
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.
Katz said while Zawahiri did discuss the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, she noted he did not talk about the Taliban’s return to power in the country.
“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, referring to the deal made last year to end the war in Afghanistan. “Thus, he could still be dead, though if so, would have been at some point in or after Jan 2021.”.
But she said it’s unknown if Zawahiri is dead or alive because “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.”
She also said that al Qaeda sees the anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on US soil as a “positive” event.
“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 validation of Bin Laden’s vision and the ‘blessed’ 9/11 attacks, and that ‘Afghanistan is the beginning,’” she wrote.