Sky News reports that a new video, perportedly from the terrorist organization, includes an invitation for journalists to interview al Qaeda number two Ayman al Zawahri.
"If genuine, it represents the first such offer by the terror network to interview one of its leaders since the attacks of September 11, 2001," Sky notes.
Zawahri may be trying to cast himself not as a terrorist but a legitimate thinker and organizational head, one who should be treated with respect – a tall order, to say the least. The interview offer seems to be part of al Qaeda's public relations strategy: The organization's videos have gotten increasingly professional, and this week one was released showing "Zawahri in a classic, well-lit TV interview situation."
Interested parties are asked to send written questions to the web forums where al Qaeda's video production division, Al-Sahab, posts messages. (Al-Sahab means "The Clouds" in Arabic.)
Last year, Al-Sahab Media released a video called "An Invitation to Islam: An Al-Sahab Produced Video Featuring Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Azzam the American AKA Adam Gadahn."
According to a report posted at this discussion forum, "The majority of the video, nearly forty-five minute, features Azzam the American explaining the perceived benefits of Islam over Judaism, Christianity, and other religions, and criticizing Western leaders for their alleged presentation of Islam as barbaric and Muslims as bogeymen."
Here's what Zawahiri reportedly has to say:
"And as our brother Azzam the American talks to you, he talks to you as one concerned about the fate which awaits his people, and as a perceptive person who wants to lead his people our of darkness into the light. So listen to him, because what he is talking to you about is serious and significant. He is talking to you about the fate which awaits every human, an extremely grave issue in which there is no joking, procrastination or backtracking."
According to Peter Bergen, "Al-Sahab's first tape, a two-hour al-Qaeda infomercial, debuted on the Internet in the summer of 2001, signaling that a major anti-American attack was in the works."
The Washington Post reports that Al-Sahab has grown dramatically since that beginning: It put out 16 videos in 2005 and more than four times that number this year. "Most videos now including subtitles in several languages and sometimes 3-D animation," the Post notes.