BEIRUT (AP) — Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri appeared in a video on the September 11, 20th anniversary of the attacks, months after rumors spread that he was dead.
The Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites, said the video was released on Saturday. In it, al-Zawahari said that “Jerusalem will never be Jewish,” and praised al-Qaeda’s attacks, which targeted Russian troops in Syria in January.
The site said that al-Zawahri also referred to the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. It added that his remarks do not indicate a recent recording, since the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban was signed in February 2020.
The site said al-Zawahari made no mention of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul last month. But he referred to the January 1 attack, which targeted Russian troops on the edge of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
Rumors have been circulating since late 2020 that al-Zawahari had died of the disease. Since then, no video or evidence of life has emerged till Saturday.
The site’s director Rita Katz tweeted, “He could still die, although if that were the case, it would have been sometime in January 2021 or later.”
Al-Zawahari’s speech was recorded in a 61-minute, 37-second video produced by the group’s As-Sahab Media Foundation.
In recent years, al-Qaeda has faced competition in jihadist circles from its rival, the Islamic State group. IS rose to prominence in 2014 by capturing large areas of Iraq and Syria, declaring a “caliphate” and expanding allies to several countries throughout the region.
The physical “caliphate” of IS was crushed in Iraq and Syria, although its militants are still active and carrying out attacks. IS shadow leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed by US special forces in a raid in northwestern Syria in October 2019.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, became the leader of al-Qaeda in 2011 following the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by US Navy SEALs.