Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has dispelled rumours of his death in his new video message. In his video, Al Qaeda’s leader has praised an Indian Muslim girl who defied a ban on wearing hijab. This video reveals the first proof in months that he is still alive.
Rumours of the death of Ayman al Zawahiri have persistently circulated, but in a video released on Tuesday and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the reclusive Al Qaeda chief praises Muskan Khan, who defied a ban on the wearing of the hijab in schools in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka.
She shouted “God Is Great” as Hindu radical students jeered at her over the Islamic headscarf. In March the court in India’s Karnataka state upheld the ban, outraging civil activists and Muslim groups in India and elsewhere.
A previous video of Zawahiri, which circulated on the anniversary last year of 9/11, did not reference the Taliban’s August takeover. It did mention the January 1, 2021 attack that targeted Russian troops on the edge of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
“He could still be dead, though if so, it would have been at some point in or after January 2021,” tweeted Rita Katz, SITE’s director following Zawahiri’s 9/11 anniversary video.
From Tuesday’s video there is no clear indication of the location of Zawahiri. He is shown in a traditional white headscarf beside a poster praising “the noble woman of India.”
However, it raises the spectre of Al Qaeda having a presence in Afghanistan, and highlights concerns over the commitment of the ruling Taliban to fight terrorist groups and deny them space in Afghanistan.
Zawahiri took over leadership of Al Qaeda after the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden, killed by US Navy SEALS during a daring nighttime raid deep inside Pakistan, where he was hiding.
Bin Laden, who masterminded the 9/11 attacks in the United States, was found in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, barely 100 kilometres from the capital Islamabad.