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Advanced Article Archive: Senior Al-Qaeda Figures
Terror Analysis: Ayman al-Zawahiri's "Online Q&A"


In a new 90-minute audio tape released, Al-Qaeda's Deputy Commander Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri responded to many questions posed by Al-Qaeda supporters on extremist web forums. Al-Zawahiri addressed several issues during this recording, such as the Palestinian internal arena, the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, the internal situation in Egypt and the evolving situation in the middle east as tension continues to rise over the Iranian nuclear project.

We would like to refer to two different issues addressed by al-Zawahiri :

UN attack algeria1. The killing of innocents - Throughout the interview al-Zawahiri was loudly criticized and asked several times about his attitude towards the killing of innocent Muslims by Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups. It seems that the operation that draws most of the criticism was the attack on UN headquarter in Algeria (December 11 2007) which claimed the lives of more than 60 people, most of them local innocent Muslims. Al-Zawahiri finds it very hard to respond to those accusations and to provide a profound explanation for the killing of innocent Muslims on the one hand and the lack of successful operations against the infidels (mostly the Jews and Israel – as the last "successful" attack was the London transportation system on July 2005) on the other.

By the end of 2005, Al Qaeda had to deal with a very similar situation regarding the activity of Abu Musa'b Al Zarqawi in Iraq and the region, peaking with the devastating attack (November 2005) on three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which claimed the lives of more than 70 peoples, all of them innocent Muslim civilians. Back than, Al Qaeda made enormous efforts to hold Zarqawi to its instructions and had to cope with a lot of criticism and antagonism raised in the Islamic and Arabic spectrum as a consequence. .

It seems that these days Al Qaeda is once again experiencing a sharp decline in the support and legitimacy from the Muslim world. Therefore, it is our assessment that Al Qaeda would put a lot of efforts in the coming months to regain its legitimacy by adopting a different modus operandy: 

  • In the Islamic countries - Al Qaeda would instruct its affiliated groups operating in the Islamic countries (mostly in the Maghreb) to chose their targets very carefully and do their best to pin point the attack. Assassinations of high level figures and attacks against isolated formal establishments (police stations, military bases etc) would become the new targets instead of those facilities in highly populated areas. 
  • Outside the Islamic countries - We believe Al Qaeda is going to put a lot of efforts to execute a successful large scale terrorist attack in the west, in order to regain its legitimacy within the Arab world. We assess that the organization would try first and foremost to hit Israel and/or Jewish communities inside or outside its territory and as a second priority the US, UK or any other European country.

saif al adel2. Saif al-Adel - Al-Zawahiri was asked twice about the current status and whereabouts of Saif al-Adel and refrained from delivering an answer. Al-Adel is an Egyptian activist of Al Qaeda who filled senior positions within the organization hierarchy. Sometime before the 9/11 attacks, he was the head of the security committee of the organization, which provides personal security services to its senior leaders, preventing information leaks and counter espionage activity within the organization. The Special security chamber is responsible for the supervision, classification and collection of information regarding each person that wishes to join Al Qaeda. Moreover, the security committee seems to be running one of the most important everyday activities in the organization - the recruitment of new activists. While the actual recruitment was probably conducted within the DAWA apparatus, it appears the apparatus itself was subordinate to the security committee, in order to prevent penetration of western intelligence agencies to the ranks of Al Qaeda.

On November 2001, following the death of Mohamed Atef (Abu Hafs Al Masri) by the coalition forces , al-Adel replaced him as Al Qaeda's military chief. Two years later, al-Adel fled to Iran with other senior Al Qaeda operatives, probably due to some disagreements with Bin Laden over targeting policy, which included harsh criticism on Bin Laden's decision to go for the 9/11 attacks knowing the probable consequences. The most recent information regarding al-Adel's whereabouts suggests he is still in Iran under some kind of supervision by the Iranians.


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