Ayman al Zawahiri: Taliban’s return fuels questions on al Qaeda chief’s well being, whereabouts

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba The whereabouts of Ayman al Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden after U.S. particular forces killed the al Qaeda chief in a 2011 raid in Pakistan, stay a thriller at the same time as the fear group might be poised to rise once more.

The shadowy Zawahiri, a 70-year-old native of Egypt, is believed to be hiding out in Afghanistan or Pakistan. However he might not even be alive.

The return of the Taliban to energy 20 years after their longtime al Qaeda allies carried out the 9/11 assaults may give the terrorist group a secure harbor as soon as once more. Ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda run deep.

Simply 5 years in the past, Zawahiri swore allegiance to the Taliban’s high religious chief, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, referring to him because the “emir of the believers.” Lengthy earlier than, bin Laden had pledged allegiance to the Taliban’s one-eyed founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who possible died someday in 2013.

However whether or not Zawahiri will cement his group’s alliance with the resurgent Taliban, or whether or not he’s even alive , stays unknown after years in hiding with a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head.

Zawahiri’s terror resume is many years within the making. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a youngster and based the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a gaggle that sought to overthrow the secular Egyptian authorities. Zawahiri was later arrested in a plot to assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. After his jihadist group merged with al Qaeda within the Nineteen Nineties, he grew to become bin Laden’s deputy.

Zawahiri’s tenure at al Qaeda is taken into account to be a combined success: He has held the group collectively regardless of U.S. counterterrorism pressures, however the breakaway of the Islamic State from al Qaeda occurred in 2014 below his watch, with the rivalry persevering with to at the present time.

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A United Nations sanctions monitoring workforce stated in July that Zawahiri’s standing was “unknown” however that if he was alive, he was possible hiding in Afghanistan. It additionally decided that he was virtually definitely ill, “resulting in an acute management problem for al Qaeda.” Video launched by al Qaeda in March included undated clips of Zawahiri however not any direct proof that he was alive.

The U.N. report stated Zawahiri’s potential successor, Sayf al Adl, was dwelling in Iran.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior editor for the Lengthy Conflict Journal, reported that al Qaeda not too long ago launched an 852-page e-book allegedly written by Zawahiri, with an introduction attributed to the terrorist chief dated April. The tome, written in Arabic, “offers with corruption amongst Islamic rulers,” Joscelyn wrote. Rita Katz, the chief director of the SITE Intelligence Group, stated the e-book and its introduction present no proof of Zawahiri’s present whereabouts or well-being.


The Taliban might owe Zawahiri and al Qaeda for the group’s return to energy. It was Zawahiri who established an al Qaeda wing within the Indian Subcontinent in 2014, the place it claimed its operatives had been combating “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Taliban “mujahideen” and known as upon Muslims all through the area to assist the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

A U.N. report from June concluded that “a big a part of the management of al Qaeda resides within the Afghanistan and Pakistan border area.” The U.N. stated that “giant numbers of al Qaeda fighters and different international extremist components aligned with the Taliban are situated in varied elements of Afghanistan” with “a variety of senior figures killed, usually alongside Taliban associates whereas co-located with them.”

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The U.N. report discovered that the Taliban works with al Qaeda by way of the Haqqani community , a prison community whose chief, Sirajuddin Haqqani, can also be reportedly a member of al Qaeda. Ties between the 2 teams “stay shut, based mostly on ideological alignment, relationships solid by way of widespread wrestle, and intermarriage,” in accordance with the doc.

The U.N. report assessed that al Qaeda has a footprint in a minimum of 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and that “members of the group have been relocated to extra distant areas by the Taliban to keep away from potential publicity and focusing on.”

The report pointed to “assessments which have advised a longer-term al Qaeda core technique of strategic endurance for a time frame earlier than it could search to plan assaults towards worldwide targets once more.”

The FBI launched a “Most Wished Terrorist” poster for Zawahiri within the late Nineteen Nineties. The US believes Zawahiri was concerned within the plotting of the next twin al Qaeda bombings in August 1998 at U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 224 civilians and wounded greater than 5,000 others, and he was included within the Justice Division’s 1998 indictment of bin Laden and others within the Southern District of New York. The U.S. additionally says Zawahiri helped coordinate the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors.

Within the wake of 9/11, the listing of U.S. calls for for the Taliban included handing over bin Laden and his high deputies similar to Zawahiri — which didn’t occur.

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