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Entries in Ayman al-Zawahiri (15)

Monday
May022011

Bin Laden's Trusted Lieutenant May Be His Successor

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the death of Osama bin Laden, the future of al Qaeda may fall into the hands of his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The whereabouts of the Egyptian-born doctor were not made immediately clear in the wake of bin Laden's death.

Al-Zawahiri, who's in his late 50s, was second on the FBI's "most wanted terrorists" list before bin Laden was killed.  He has appeared in anti-U.S. audio and video recordings through the years, including one released last month in which he called upon Muslim nations to fight American and NATO forces in Libya.

Al-Zawahiri was one of hundreds of extremists arrested following the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, though he was later cleared.  In 1999, he was indicted in connection with the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania the previous year.

Al-Zawahiri was also instrumental in trying to set up an Islamic state in Egypt during the mid-1990s in which more than 1,200 people died.  By the end of the decade, a military court sentenced him to death in absentia.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr202011

Report: Al Qaeda Commander Ayman al-Zawahiri Brother-in-Law Dead

Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri. AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Wanted terrorist and brother-in-law of al Qaeda's number two commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is dead, according to an announcement on an Islamist website.

The announcement, posted Monday on the website for the al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies, says that Usama Hasan, whose sister Omayma is married to al-Zawahiri, was "martyred" in Afghanistan earlier this year. According to the statement, Hasan, from Cairo, was convicted in absentia by Egyptian courts in 1999 for his membership in the Egyptian terror group Gama'a Islamiya, part of which later merged with al Qaeda.

He was arrested again in Iran in 2001, released later that year and made his way to Afghanistan where he mysteriously dropped off the radar, the statement says, until the al-Maqrizi Center claimed they received information related to his death.

The statement does not release details or circumstances of Hasan's death in Afghanistan, but Islamist websites frequently announce deaths once they become known. Hasan was not a major figure in al Qaeda or Gama'a Islamiya, but he was connected by family and marriage to some of the world's most dangerous and notorious terrorists. According to the al-Maqrizi Center announcement, two of Hasan's other sisters were also married to leaders of Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad, which later became part of al Qaeda. One is currently imprisoned in Egypt and another was killed in 2001 in Afghanistan. Only Zawahiri remains free and alive.

News of Hasan's death comes just days after al-Zawahiri appeared in a rare video message urging Arab armies to intervene in Libya to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi before "Western aid... turns into invasions."

The hour-plus long video posted online is the first since Egypt's successful revolution and features the Osama bin Laden deputy in a white robe with the barrel of an assault rifle visible at his side. In addition to discussing the bloody fighting in Libya, al-Zawahiri, also an Egyptian native, 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.

Though al-Zawahiri has released audio messages in recent months, it was the first video appearance one of the world's most wanted men has made in more than a year and half.

The al Qaeda leader's message marks what U.S. officials see as another attempt in al Qaeda's recent, belated efforts to spin the spreading Arab world protests in their favor.

"Al Qaeda must be pretty damn frustrated these days," a U.S. official told ABC News. "Calls for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa don't exactly square with their extremist views. They've been on the wrong side of history -- and humanity -- for years."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio?

Thursday
Apr142011

Al Qaeda Deputy Surfaces in Rare Online Video

File: Shown here is a 2005 TV grab from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel, showing al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri delivering a speech at an undisclosed location. AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In a new, rare video message from al Qaeda's number-two terrorist commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri calls on Arab armies to intervene in Libya to help eject dictator Moammar Gadhafi before "Western aid... turns into invasions."

The hour-plus-long video is the first since Egypt's successful revolution and features the Osama bin Laden deputy in a white robe with the barrel of an assault rifle visible at his side. In addition to discussing the bloody fighting in Libya, al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian native, 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.

Though al-Zawahiri has released audio messages in recent months, it is the first video appearance one of the world's most wanted men has made in more than a year and half.

Al-Zawahiri's message marks another attempt in al Qaeda's recent, belated efforts to spin the spreading Arab world protests in their favor. Al-Zawahiri previously lauded the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia in the latest issue of al Qaeda's English-language magazine Inspire.

Last month U.S. government officials and terrorism experts largely declared the recent Arab revolutions a sign of al Qaeda's demise, saying the Islamist terror group is unable to garner significant popular support. For months, few, if any messages from al Qaeda leaders have commented on the removal of Arab regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya or the unrest in at least four other Arab nations.

In February, in the midst of the Egyptian uprising, al-Zawahiri released a 34-minute audio message blasting the corrupt government under Mubarak. Al-Zawahiri, the founder of the violent Egyptian Islamic Jihad, was jailed in Egypt in the 1980s for his connection to the assassination of then-President Anwar Sadat. He later accused the Egyptian government of systematic torture in the prison.

Al-Zawahiri was indicted in the U.S. for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. There is currently a $25 million reward for information leading to his apprehension.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

Al Qaeda Tries to Grab a Piece of Arab Revolutions

Gadhafi is mocked in a page from Inspire magazine. Inspire magazine is an English language online magazine reported to be published by the organization Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda, which some U.S. officials had called irrelevant to the revolts sweeping the Arab world, has made a slick bid to claim the revolutions with the newest issue of its English-language magazine.

The newly released fifth issue of Inspire, which appeared on Islamist websites overnight, is called "The Tsunami of Change," and includes the first post-revolution messages from wanted American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In the cover story, al-Awlaki calls the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya a boon to al Qaeda and Islamic militants, and dismisses Gadhafi as a "lunatic." Al-Zawahiri's message lauds the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, but does not mention Libya. Another story mocks Gadhafi as a "clown" and urges the rebels in Libya onward: "We ask our brothers and sisters in Libya to continue standing up against the regime and to show patience in the face of [Gadhafi's] tyranny until he falls."

A full-page poster mocks Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh by showing an unflattering picture of Saleh and asking, "Hey Ali, Mubarak just fell -- guess who's joining the party next?" The bottom of the page says, in small type, "This ad is brought to you by A Cold Diss."

Inspire is the English-language magazine of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is battling Saleh's regime. The trademark joking pop culture references are thought to be the work of American-born jihadi Samir Khan, who apparently launched Inspire after moving to Yemen.

U.S. government officials and terrorism experts have largely declared the recent Arab revolutions a sign of al Qaeda's demise, saying the Islamist terror group is unable to garner significant popular support. For months, few, if any messages from al Qaeda leaders have commented on the removal of Arab regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya or the unrest in at least four other Arab nations.

Al-Awlaki's four-page article, "The Tsunami of Change," is an effort to spin the recent events as good for Islamic militancy and radicalism. He quotes U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in an effort to refute their shared assessment that the uprisings in the Middle East exposed al Qaeda's lack of relevance.

"The Mujahidin around the world are going through a moment of elation," al-Awlaki writes. "I wonder whether the West is aware of the upsurge of mujahidin activity in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, [Saudi] Arabia, Algeria and Morocco?"

Referring to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of Washington for 30 years, al-Awlaki said the Americans "trashed him." The cleric then quotes a famous American Muslim: "As Malcolm [X] would have liked to say, 'He's been bamboozled.' America duped him, then dumped him."

But the Yemeni-American cleric acknowledges that it is too soon to know whether the various revolutions will result in the creation of Islamic states.

"The outcome doesn't have to be an Islamic government for us to consider what is occurring to be a step in the right direction," al-Awlaki writes. "Whatever the outcome is, our mujahidin brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation."

"No matter how pro-Western or oppressive the next government [of Libya] proves to be," writes al-Awlaki, "we do not see it possible for the world to produce another lunatic of the same caliber of the Colonel."

Al-Awlaki is believed by U.S. intelligence and military officials to be behind several terror attempts in the U.S. and thought to be hiding among Yemeni tribes. President Obama placed him on a target list more than a year ago.

Reports from Libya have described some of the rebels in the current war as jihadists and veterans of battles against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Chad's leader has claimed that al Qaeda militants stole missiles from a Libyan weapons depot. Despite such assertions by al Awlaki and others, U.S. officials have said there has been little indication -- if any -- of significant involvement by jihadists in any of the Arab revolutions.

U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said Tuesday that that in Libya there had been only "flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah [links.]"

"The intelligence that I'm receiving at this point makes me feel that the leadership that I'm seeing are responsible men and women who are struggling against Col. Gadhafi," said Stavridis. "At this point, I don't have detail sufficient to say that there's a significant al Qaeda presence or any other other terrorist presence in and among these folks."

Said Stavridis, "We'll continue to look at that very closely -- it's part of doing due diligence -- as we move forward on any kind of relationship."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Feb192011

Newly Released Al Qaeda Message Blasts Mubarak

Photo Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images (file)(WASHINGTON) -- A new audio message from Osama bin Laden's terrorist deputy was released on the Internet Friday, the first message from al Qaeda since the unrest in Egypt began. The 34-minute message from Ayman al-Zawahiri addressed the corruption of the Egyptian regime and denounced the government of President Hosni Mubarak for resisting Islamic law.

"The constitution of the regime in Egypt claims that it is democratic. But it's truth that it's a suppressive regime that rules the people with suppressive forces and fake elections and corrupt media and unjust law," Zawahiri said. Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born doctor, served three years in prison for his role in the 1981 assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and helped found al Qaeda after his release from prison.

The audio message was produced by al Qaeda's media arm, as-Sahab, meaning "of The Cloud," and posted on radical Islamic internet forums Friday as part of a video, according to the IntelCenter, a terrorism monitoring group. The audio message gives no date or indication of when it was recorded, and makes no reference to the 18 days of mass protests that began in January, but the still images featured in the video include a reference to an Islamic month that ended one week before Mubarak's Feb. 11 resignation.

Since the Egyptian uprising began last month, regional analysts had noted al Qaeda's lack of response. Overthrowing the Egyptian regime had long been a stated goal of al Qaeda. Zawahiri's message comes faster than typical al Qaeda releases, but not in time to claim any effect on the unrest in Egypt.

Mubarak had been in power for 30 years, taking over after a militant group led by Zawahiri, Islamic Jihad, assassinated Sadat. Egyptian authorities quickly arrested and convicted several members of the Islamic Jihad, including Zawahiri. He has accused the government of systematic torture while he was imprisoned.

After his release in 1984, Zawahiri quickly left Egypt for Saudi Arabia and then Pakistan, where he provided medical aid to the mujahedeen then fighting Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. It was in Pakistan that Zawahiri befriended Osama bin Laden, and eventually merged Islamic Jihad into the Saudi scion's organization, al Qaeda.

During his years in exile, Zawahiri was behind several terrorist attacks targeting Egyptian government officials and buildings, both inside Egypt and abroad. During the recent uprising and protests, Egyptians demanded that the government end the country's Emergency Rule, which had been enacted shortly after Sadat's assassination to protect against the threat of Islamic militants. Egyptians complained bitterly that the rule allowed the government to make arbitrary arrests and indefinite detention with no access to the Egyptian legal system.

Officials for the Central Intelligence Agency told ABC News that as a rule they do not publicly confirm the authenticity of al Qaeda audio and video messages.

Zawahiri last released an audio message in November 2010.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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