Entries in Ayman al-Zawahiri (3)


Al Qaeda Leader Zawahiri Says He Has US Hostage 

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a newly released audio message, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claims that his organization is holding hostage Warren Weinstein, a 70-year-old American who went missing last August in Pakistan. Zawahiri's statement is the first official claim of responsibility by any group in relation to the kidnapping.

"I tell the captive soldiers of al Qaeda and the Taliban and our female prisoners held in the prisons of the crusaders and their collaborators, we have not forgotten you and in order to free you we have taken hostage the Jewish American Warren Weinstein," says Zawahiri in the 30-minute statement, which appeared on jihadi websites Thursday and otherwise focuses mainly on the situation in his native Egypt.

The leader of al Qaeda addresses Weinstein's family, telling them that "your government tortures our prisoners, but we have not tortured your prisoner." He also warns them not to trust President Obama's assurances that everything is being done to secure Weinstein's release, accusing the president of wishing "[Weinstein] would be killed to get rid of his problem."

In exchange for Weinstein's release, Zawahiri requests the lifting of the Israeli "siege" of the Gaza strip, the complete end of "bombings by America and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza," the release of all al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners and the closing down of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo bay, Cuba, in addition to the release of members of Osama bin Laden's family.

"Obama has the power, capacity and authority to free [Weinstein]," says Zawahiri. "He could also leave him in captivity for years and, if he does something stupid, kill him."

In August, Pakistani police arrested three men in connection with the kidnapping. Weinstein, a private U.S. citizen who has lived in Pakistan for seven years, was sleeping in his bed when assailants burst into his home to snatch him. The former USAID worker is currently employed by the private U.S.-based development firm J.E. Austin Associates.

All three suspects are from the same province in which Weinstein lived, an area far from the turbulent tribal regions near the Afghan border more usually associated with violent attacks. The men were arrested after investigators managed to track their cell phone numbers, the Lahore police chief said without elaborating.

Some in Pakistan have speculated privately that Weinstein was not a development worker, but instead worked in intelligence for the U.S. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah publicly announced his suspicions, telling local media that Weinstein was involved in "quite suspect" intelligence-gathering for the U.S. government and comparing him to Raymond Davis, the American CIA contractor who was jailed in Pakistan earlier this year for shooting two men on the streets of Lahore.

U.S. diplomats said Weinstein is not connected to any U.S. intelligence groups.

Weinstein is the first private citizen to be kidnapped in Pakistan since al Qaeda operatives abducted and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

On the new tape, Zawahiri also acknowledges for the first time the death of his number two, al Qaeda deputy leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal area in August. One senior U.S. official described his death at the time as "a tremendous loss for al Qaeda, because Zawahiri was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since bin Laden's death." According to U.S. officials, Atiyah was the "operational leader" of the terror group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Biden on Terror Threat: Credible Source But No 'Smoking Gun'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that while intelligence on a potential terror plot against New York City or Washington, D.C., came from a credible source, it has been unconfirmed and there is "no certitude" an attack has been planned.

Biden said he and President Obama had been briefed on intelligence developed by the CIA in the last 48 hours that three men may have entered the country with the intent to launch a vehicle-bomb attack on the homeland.

"We do have talk about using a car bomb.  We've been told that was an intention... from a credible source," Biden said on ABC's Good Morning America.  "But we do not have confirmation of that."

"We don't have a smoking gun," he said.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a bulletin out to law enforcement agencies across the country late Thursday warning against the potential plot by al Qaeda surrounding the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 to "avenge Osama bin Laden's death."

Although authorities said they had not yet identified the suspects, they are looking at multiple names of individuals who entered the U.S. after mid-August.  The operatives are believed to have embarked on their journey to the U.S. from the tribal areas of Pakistan, according to two senior officials.  One official said the route may have taken them through Dubai.  The threat information was obtained recently and originated from overseas sources -- Pakistan, according to one official.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials told ABC News that at least one of the individuals is a U.S. citizen and one official said that two of the individuals may have had U.S. documentation -- whether green cards or passports was unclear.

The information on the plot was "very specific," said one official, adding, "It seems like the information has been worked for a while."

Officials told ABC News Thursday the alleged terror plot was initiated by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor, who had pledged to avenge bin Laden's death earlier this year at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.

"As we know from the intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid, al Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11.  In this instance, it's accurate that there is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said in a statement Thursday.

But while the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies rush to identify the men linked to the potential plot, several officials in addition to Biden emphasized that the information has not been confirmed.

"Credible means this is something they've been expecting, something that could happen," former White House counter-terrorism advisor and now ABC News consultant Richard Clarke said on GMA.  "Unconfirmed means they have one source... Sometimes people make up stories and pass them on to the CIA in great detail."

In New York, police commissioner Ray Kelly announced Thursday evening that police would be deploying additional bomb-sniffing dogs, radiation detection equipment and random vehicle checks beginning Friday morning.  There also will be stepped up bag searches, towing of illegally parked cars and increased police presence on the ferries, Kelly said.

Initially, one official added that at least two rental trucks -- one from Penske and one from Budget -- were being sought nationwide.  Those trucks have since been recovered and appear to have had no connection to the plotters.

In Zawahiri's most recent video, released last month, he called for his followers to focus on the U.S.

"Hunt her down wherever you may encounter her.  Hunt her down to cut what is left of her corruption's tail," Zawahiri says in the video.

"We know from Bin Laden's own handwriting he wanted to do an attack around the anniversary," said Clarke.  "We know from his successor's own audio tapes and video tapes that he feels he has to prove al Qaeda is still alive by avenging bin Laden's death.  And we know that this kind of technique could be relatively easily done, even by an al Qaeda that's on the ropes, even by an al Qaeda that has very few people left."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


America's New Most Wanted: Al Qaeda Deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri?

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Job one for intelligence analysts searching the "motherlode" of information grabbed from Osama Bin Laden's lair is finding any plans for imminent al Qaeda terror attacks.

But after attack plans, what U.S. authorities want to know is the whereabouts of Bin Laden's top deputies, especially the man who now could inherit the dual titles of al Qaeda's leader and America's most wanted terrorist -- Ayman al-Zawahiri.

"After attack plans," said former White House counterterrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, "[they're looking for] the location of [Bin Laden's] deputies ... where the money is, where the money comes from, where does it live, and how big an organization is al Qaeda central these days?"

Though the FBI said it does not rank its most wanted beyond their presence in the top ten, the U.S. government is offering $25 million for information leading to the capture of the man it believes has been al Qaeda's true commander for several years – millions more than anyone else on the list.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian born doctor who turns 60 next month, helped found al Qaeda with bin Laden, merging bin Laden's group with his own Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Together they issued a fatwa in 1998, believed to have been authored by Zawahiri, called "World Islamic Front Against Jews and Crusaders," and also called a general meeting of al Qaeda.

Their shared career of terror began with the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania later that year, and continued with the USS Cole attack of 2000 and then 9/11. Zawahiri is under indictment in the U.S. for the embassy attacks.

In April 2009, the U.S. State Department said that it believed that bin Laden had become a spiritual figurehead within al Qaeda, and that Zawahiri, known as "The Doctor" or "The Teacher," was the group's true operational and strategic leader. Examination of the materials found in Bin Laden's Abbottabad hideout will show whether U.S. officials had it right. "Prior to the attack, CIA's impression was that Bin Laden was a passive manager who occasionally received reports," said Clarke. "We'll know better whether that was accurate when we see what was in the documents and on his hard drive."

A senior Pakistani official told ABC News Wednesday that Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, continues to believe that bin Laden had not been operationally involved with al Qaeda for some time.

Zawarhiri is still thought to be hiding near the Afghan-Pakistan border. Bin Laden was often said to be living in the same region, though when he was killed in a raid Sunday, Bin Laden had actually been holed up less than 100 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, right next to Pakistani military installations and the country's top military academy, for as long as six years.

Over the years, Zawahiri has released a drumbeat of audio and video messages via al Qaeda affiliated web sites, more than three dozen since 2003.

In his most recent message, an hour-plus long video posted online in April, Zawahiri calls on Arab armies to intervene in Libya to help eject dictator Moammar Gadhafi before "Western aid... turns into invasions."

The video was the first message in a year in a half from Zawahiri, and the first since Egypt's successful revolution. It features Zawahiri in a white robe with the barrel of an assault rifle visible at his side. In addition to discussing the bloody fighting in Libya, Zawahiri celebrates the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and says that the continuation of the North African nation depends on the destruction of Israel and the establishment of Islamic law.

As a leader of Islamic Jihad in Egypt, Zawahiri had attempted to organize a coup against Anwar Sadat. Zawahiri was arrested, imprisoned and allegedly tortured by Egyptian authorities after Anwar Sadat's assassination. He served a three-year sentence on a weapons charge and moved to Saudi Arabia in 1985 on his release. After Saudi Arabia, he moved to Pakistan, where he met Bin Laden.

Prior to the April video, Zawahiri had lauded the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia in the latest issue of al Qaeda's English-language magazine "Inspire".

In February, in the midst of the Egyptian uprising, Zawahiri released a 34-minute audio message blasting the corrupt government under Mubarak.

Three years ago, Zawahiri also wrote a book that provided a religious justification for using weapons of mass destruction against America.

CIA director Leon Panetta said Tuesday that Zawahiri was "moving up very fast" on the U.S. enemies list, but noted that the U.S. needed to see for certain who would replace bin Laden as al Qaeda chief. The FBI also told ABC News it was "premature" to speculate on who would fill bin Laden's now-vacant position on the Most Wanted list.

White House counterterror advisor John Brennan said that Zawahiri lacks charisma and has enemies within al Qaeda. A former attorney of Zawahiri's in Egypt wrote a book about Zawahiri that portrayed him as abrasive, stubborn and arrogant, and said that would limit his effectiveness.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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