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Zawahiri asserts al Qaeda’s independence in new message


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zawahiri-asserts-al-qaedas-independence-in-new-message.php
FDD's Long War Journal

Thomas Joscelyn

September 11, 2020

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On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 hijackings, Al Qaeda has released a lengthy screed from Ayman al Zawahiri. In last year’s anniversary message, Zawahiri attempted to rebuke Islamic critics of al Qaeda’s deadliest day. This year, Zawahiri’s ire is directed at another target: Al Jazeera. In particular, the al Qaeda emir critiques a feature produced by the television network, claiming it is propaganda that is intended to undermine the mujahideen’s cause.

It is a curious subject to make the centerpiece of a message released on this day, but the video’s release was likely timed to coincide with the normalization of relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain. The video, which was produced by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s longtime media arm, is titled “Deal of the Century or the Crusade of the Century.”

Much of the production is aimed at an Al Jazeera video released in 2019. It focused on the story of Muhammad Saleh Ali Muhammad, an alleged former al Qaeda member who claimed that the monarchy in Bahrain hired the jihadists to hunt down members of the Shiite opposition. Zawahiri bristles at this claim, arguing that Muhammad Saleh was never in al-Qaeda’s ranks and that his story doesn’t add up.

One of Zawahiri’s key arguments is that Muhammad Saleh’s testimony is inconsistent with al Qaeda’s “General Guidelines for Jihad,” which were posted online in 2013. The text of those guidelines is displayed onscreen, as well as in the As Sahab transcripts (in both English and Arabic) that accompany the video message.

“It is not hidden from the brothers that our work in this stage has two aspects: the first military and the second propagational,” the 2013 guidelines read. The guidelines make it clear that al Qaeda views both the U.S. and various local rulers throughout the Muslim-majority world as its enemies. The video transcript adds: “The military work targets firstly the head of international disbelief, America and its ally Israel. Secondly, it targets their local allies who rule over our lands.”

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