A 2-hour, 36-minute audio tape by al Qaeda's number two Ayman al Zawahri was posted on a number of militant Islamist websites Monday night. The new audio is part two of the "open interview" series, in which al Zawahri responds to questions previously posted by different people online. Al Sahab, the self-proclaimed al Qaeda's "media production company," had invited those who would like to ask al Qaeda leader questions to do so through the Internet. Part One of the same series had been released in early April.
In the audio, al Zawahri answers questions by over 60 people, many of whom asked several questions. He addresses the issues of Iraq, the establishment of so-called "Islamic states" in Iraq and Afghanistan, women and jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, democracy and removing Arab regimes.
Two questions were posted by people claiming to be from the press, including the Japanese Kyodo News Agency and a journalist from Norway. Four questions were posed by people claiming to live in the West, some of whom inquiring about the role they should play and whether they should travel to Afghanistan or Iraq or not. A number of people asked questions in English, which al Zawahri says he's translated before answering.
Al Zawahri, who read the questions himself, sounded impatient and dismissive at times. He asked several questioners to check his previous statements to find the answers and seemed disappointed they were not aware of every word he's said or written. In response to one question about whether or not he had supported Hizbullah in a statement he issued during last summer's war with Israel, he advised the questioner to listen to the tape herself instead of listening to what other people say about it. He also advised another person who asked ten questions to reconsider his secular ideas.
This is al Zawahri's fifth statement this year. His last statement was an audio tape released on April 17.
Al Qaeda Still Intends to Punish Countries That Participated in the War on Iraq
One questioner asked if al Qaeda intends to punish countries that participated in the war by giving orders for operations to be carried out there. "My answer is yes. We believe that anybody who participated in the aggression against Muslims has to be deterred."
Who is the Real Leader? Bin Laden Is "One of Mullah Omar's Soldiers"
Asked about who the real leader of Muslims is, the person who holds the title of "emir (prince) of the faithful," al Zawahri explained that Mullah Omar was the "Emir of the Faithful" in Afghanistan and not all over the world, while Abu Omar al Baghdadi is the "Emir of the Faithful" in Iraq. As for the world's most wanted man, al Zawahri repeats twice that Osama Bin Laden is "one of Mullah Omar's soldiers." As far as the leader of all Muslims, al Zawahri explains it will be the Imam of the caliphate that al Qaeda is trying to establish.
No Women in Al Qaeda's Ranks
Al Zawahri reaffirmed twice that there were no women in al Qaeda's ranks.He said women help by enduring the hardships associated with frequent movements and difficult conditions as well as by raising their kids. Al Qaeda's number two seems to contradict himself however when he responds to a woman asking if she should participate in jihad in the Maghreb countries. He responds by saying that as an obligation, jihad should include everybody, but that because in her particular case she has nobody she trusts to leave her kids with, she should not do it.
Jihad Needs Money
Al Zawahri stressed a number of times on jihadi groups' need for money. "Money is the foundation of jihad," he repeated. "I advise every Mujahed who heads to the fields of jihad, to collect as much money as he can to bring to the mujahedin." Al Zawahri also indicated jihad comes above all else, including marriage. He advised a man asking if he should travel for jihad even though he had promised to marry a girl, that there was nothing more important than jihad because it was an "obligation."
Once More: Was Al Qaeda Really Behind 9/11?
Al Zawahri said the conspiracy theory about Israel being behind the Sept. 11th attacks was first circulated by Hizbullah's TV Station al Manar, then it was carried in the Iranian media, because he says they didn't want Sunnis to have "heroes." He added in an answer to a different question "we've stated a number of times, very clearly, that we were the ones who attacked not only the World Trade Center, but the Pentagon as well."
Democracy Conflicts with 'Sharia'
"Democracy essentially conflicts with sharia (Islamic Law), because democracy is based on the rule of the majority while shari'a is based on the rule of the law as it was sent down by God," said al Zawahri in response to a question about the Islamic State of Iraq and democracy.
Sunnis a Majority in Iraq
Al Zawahri claimed Sunnis were a majority in Iraq, arguing that Kurds and Turkmans are Sunnis that should also be counted. He strongly supported the "Islamic State in Iraq" and its leader Abu Omar al Baghdadi and called for a dialogue with other groups that agree to the principle of establishment of the Islamic Caliphate.
Why Not Attack the U.S. Navy?
In response to a question about targeting the U.S. Navy, mentioning the attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen as an example, al Zawahri says "we ask you to pray for God to facilitate for us all kinds of operations."
Support for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Six questions where posed about jihad in the Maghreb area, which includes Algeria, Morrocco and Tunisia. Al Zawahri showed great support for a militant Islamist Algerian group that had joined al Qaeda in Sept. 2006 and renamed itself "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." He urged people to follow and support them and defended them against claims that they killed Muslim civilians. "They don't mean to kill Muslims, if they do so then they either didn't mean to or it's a lie spread by the governmental crusader's media."
Muslims Brotherhood's Position Regarding Palestine Better Than Hamas's
In a lengthy answer to a lengthy question that seemed to hit a cord, al Zawahri criticized the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's program, pointing out that it refers to a secular constitution and mentions democracy 19 times. (He had pointed earlier that democracy and Islamic shari'a were incompatible). He also criticized the Muslim Brotherhood's program for not providing any support to jihad or the mujaheddin and for indicating they accept the U.N. resolution, which he concludes would mean recognition of Israel. But in spite of his strong against the Muslim Brotherhoods, al Zawahri praised them for their position with regards to "liberating every inch of Palestine," which he said was better than Hamas' declared position in the Mecca agreement.
Inciting Attacks inside Saudi Arabia
Seven questions were asked about Saudi Arabia specifically. "As for Saudi Arabia, the tyrants, the Americans' agents, should not rest in peace, we have promised God to fight the crusaders and Jews until we kick them out of our lands and establish an Islamic system," he said, urging those who have the ability to choose their targets and go ahead with attacks. "Those who have the power should target U.S. forces and its allies that are based in Iraq's neighboring countries." In this section, al Zawahri also supports the Saudi Reform Movement (Al Islah), which is led by the Saudi dissident Saad al Faqih out of London.
Al Qaeda Against Fath Al Islam in Lebanon?
Al Zawahri's answer to that question was vague. In response to a question indicating al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq had asked people not to support the militant group, al Zawahri said it would be a shame to "let our brothers in Lebanon down." Al Zawahri also predicted that Lebanon will play an important role "in the coming battles" and called on Lebanese people to go to Palestine to fight.
A person claiming to be from the Japanese Kyodo Press Agency asked al Zawahri about his threats to Japan, even though it has only participated in reconstruction and humanitarian work. Al Zawahri argued that because it was all done under the umbrella of the coalition forces, it is considered an attack on Muslims.
Questions by Persons Living in the West
Four questions were asked by people who claimed they lived in Western countries. One questioner asked if it was best to travel to Iraq or Afghanistan for jihad, stay in that country and try "individual jihad," or get involved in "media jihad," which includes Internet propaganda. "The best way is to communicate with the mujaheddin one way or another to coordinate with them," said al Zawahri, adding that if that fails, he should try to do something on his own or travel for jihad. He disagreed however with the idea of staying in an "infidel country" only to participate in the "media jihad."
"Strange Question" About Mughniya?
Al Zawahri was asked how many times he had met with Hizbullah leader Emad Mughniya who was assassinated last February. "I haven't met him. This is a strange question and I don't understand what's behind it," he said.
Al Zawahri even addressed Global Warming in his lengthy audio tape, saying it shows how greedy Western countries are, pointing the finger specifically at the US, because of their reluctance to reduce gases.
Al Zawahri Mocks U.S. Government Research
Al Zawahri mocked a research report published by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center entitled "Militant Ideology Atlas- Research Compendium," which has a passage about him joining the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 14. The reference appears on page 359 of the document. Al Zawahri says he never joined the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Afghanistan is Palestine and Palestine is Afghanistan"
Asked why al Qaeda does not focus on fighting in Palestine instead of Afghanistan, al Zawahri responds by saying that those who think that jihad in Afghanistan comes at the expense of Palestine are mistaken and don't understand how movements start and are built. "Afghanistan is Palestine and Palestine is Afghanistan." Al Zawahri also says that "The Afghanistan/Pakistan area is witnessing a wide jihadi awakening and I expect - God willing - that it will change the conditions in the area." As for Arab States, he says "here is no hope but to remove corrupt regimes in Muslim lands by force. There is no chance for change through peaceful work."
By Hoda Osman