Ayman al Zawahiri, in his videotape eulogizing Osama bin Laden. Image courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group.
Al Qaeda’s central command has appointed Ayman al Zawahiri, the longtime deputy of Osama bin Laden, as the official leader of the terror group. Al Qaeda also said it would continue to fight in Afghanistan under the leadership of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
The announcement of Al Qaeda’s appointment of Zawahiri as emir appeared in a statement that was produced by As Sahab, the terror group’s official media production arm, and released today on several jihadist forums. The message, titled “Statement on the Succession of Sheikh Osama bin Laden and the Command of al Qaeda,” made it clear that Zawahiri was appointed by al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and outlined seven “principles” to guide the terror group moving forward.
“And as the best form of gratitude for the righteous martyr and for the life of the mujahid Sheikh Usama bin Laden is to continue on the path of jihad in the Cause of Allah, and to help the Muslims and the weak, the General Command of Qaedat al Jihad – and after the completion of consultation – announces that Sheikh Dr. Abu Muhammad Ayman al-Zawahiri, may Allah grant him success, has assumed the responsibility of the leadership of the group,” the statement said, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Al Qaeda’s appointment of Zawahiri as its leader takes place more than a week after Zawahiri issued an official eulogy for Osama bin Laden, the terror group’s co-founder and longtime leader who was killed in a US special operations raid at a safehouse in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2.
In the days after bin Laden’s death, al Qaeda had designated Saif al Adel, its senior military leader and strategist and a key member of the external operations council, as its interim emir. Both Zawahiri and al Adel were considered to be two of the top contenders to replace bin Laden.
The seven principles set forth in al Qaeda’s statement today began with a call for followers to remain united and seek consensus. The message went on to urge adherents to undertake the following: continue to call Muslims to perform “the obligatory duty of jihad”; remain a pan-Muslim movement; work to free their followers from prison; support the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East; “cooperate with everyone who is working to help Islam, in the Islamic organizations and groups, or those outside of them”; and aid the “oppressed.”
Al Qaeda said that it remains at the service of Mullah Omar and promised to continue to fight with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“We assure our brothers in Afghanistan that we are with them with our lives and with what we own, under the leadership of the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, may Allah protect him, in pushing out and expelling the American Crusader occupation from its pure and patient country,” the statement said.
Al Qaeda also said it remains committed to supporting terrorist groups in Iraq, Somalia, the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Caucasus.
“We also assure our mujahideen brothers, the companions on the path of patience, challenge and confrontation with the Crusader campaign in Iraq of the Caliphate and knowledge; in Somalia of immigration and Shariah; in the Peninsula of revelation, wisdom and faith; in the Maghreb of fighting, support and steadfastness; in Chechnya of patience and insistence, that we are continuing in the covenant and in the methodology with a strong structure, aligned ranks, united word, familiar hearts and pure banner, fighting one enemy, even if they take different shapes and assume different names, without weakness, hesitation or surrender,” al Qaeda stated.
Al Qaeda further stated that it remains committed to the destruction of Israel and supports jihadist groups operating from Palestinian territories.
“We confirm to them that we will never accept giving up anything from the Palestine of jihad and fighting, from any part, and we will not recognize any legitimacy to the alleged State of Israel, even if all the people on earth agree [on its legitimacy],” al Qaeda said. “We will never accept or permit to or abide by any agreement, decision or treaty that decides that or loots from the Muslims one grain of sand of Palestine, whether it is the United Nations, which is controlled by the leading criminals, or other organizations and institutions. We will continue, with help from Allah and His power, in jihad and struggle by the hand and the tongue.”