SITE Intelligence Group reports that in a video published by the militant group, Zawahri also criticizes”backtrackers” from jihad, speaking to former jihadis who changed their views in prison and called the 9/11 strikes unacceptable because innocent civilians were harmed. In this 1998 file photo made available Friday, March 19, 2004, Ayman al-Zawahri speaks to the media in Khost, Afghanistan.
SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online activity of jihadist groups, reported in a video published by the militant group, the 68-year-old al-Zawahri also criticizes”backtrackers” from jihad, speaking to former jihadis who changed their views in prison and called the 9/11 strikes unacceptable because innocent civilians were hurt.
“If you want Jihad to be focused solely on military targets, the American army has presence all around the world, in the East to the West,” he said. “Your countries are littered with American foundations, including all the infidels there and also the corruption that they spread.”
The coordinated al-Qaida hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001 murdered nearly 3,000 people, when airliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and another crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Al-Zawahri’s address was recorded in a 33-minute, 28-second movie created by the group’s as-Sahab Media Foundation.
As a sign of when the address might have been recorded, al-Zawahri references President Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, which was announced on March 25.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, became leader of al-Qaida after the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs. He’s thought to be hiding somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan boundary areas. A July report from the U.N. cited reports that he’s”in poor health” but provided no details.
Over recent decades, al-Qaida has been engaged in fending off competition in jihadi circles from its rival, the Islamic State group. IS exploded into prominence by seizing large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014, announcing a”caliphate” and extending affiliates in numerous countries throughout the region.
IS’s bodily”caliphate” was crushed in Iraq and Syria, though its militants continue to be active and carrying out attacks.
The U.N. report stated the”immediate international threat posed by al-Qaida remains unclear” but cautioned that some prospective IS recruits could turn into elderly business.
The Yemen branch has been the most active, exploiting the chaos of the civil war to carry out bombings, shootings and assassinations in an attempt to enlarge its footprint.
Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden was seen as an eventual heir to the direction of al-Qaida but had been killed in a military operation, U.S. officials have said. Al-Zawahri lauded Hamza at a 2015 movie that appeared on jihadi sites, calling him a”lion from the den of al-Qaida.”