Ayman al-Zawahiri who succeeded Osama bin Laden following his death in 2011 has praised al-Qaeda attacks, including one that targeted Russian troops in Syria in January, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.
The footage, produced and reportedly released by Al-Qaeda’s official media arm As-Sahab, offers the first new glimpse of Mr al-Zawahri since rumours that he had died from illness first emerged late last year.
But rather than dispel talk of his death, the video could actually fuel further speculation – with the events referenced within his speech only offering proof that he was alive until January, according to the monitoring group.
While Mr al-Zawahiri’s hour-long speech noted the US military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, first confirmed in February 2020 under the Doha agreement, he made no mention of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul last month.
The omission appears conspicuous by its absence given that, according to SITE’s director Rita Katz, Al-Qaeda is celebrating celebrating he Taliban’s takeover “as their biggest victory” since 9/11.
Mr al-Zawahiri did, however, mention an attack which targeted Russian troops on the edge of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa on 1 January this year – several weeks after rumours of his death first re-emerged in November.