Zawahiri says raids on diplomatic facilities were ‘defeats’ for US


Osama bin Laden, Mohammed al Zawahiri, and Sheikh Tawfiq Al ‘Afani, as seen in the Al Faroq video on the protest at the US embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Courtesy of SITE Intelligence Group.

In a new audio message addressed to Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, Ayman al Zawahiri cites the raids on US diplomatic facilities in September as evidence of American weakness.

Shabaab has suffered setbacks in recent months, including the loss of its stronghold in the port city of Kismayo. But in what amounts to a pep talk, Zawahiri says Shabaab’s spirits should be buoyed by the supposed losses suffered by America and its allies elsewhere.

“They were defeated in Iraq and they are withdrawing from Afghanistan, and their ambassador in Benghazi was killed and the flags of their embassies were lowered in Cairo and Sana’a, and in their places were raised the flags of tawhid [monotheism] and jihad,” Zawahiri says, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“After their consecutive defeats, they are working from behind agents and traitors,” Zawahiri continues. “Their awe is lost and their might is gone and they don’t dare to carry out a new campaign like their past ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Al Qaeda-linked extremists have been tied to the three assaults on US diplomatic facilities Zawahiri mentions.

Press reports have identified several al Qaeda-affiliated parties as being responsible for the Sept. 11 assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Members of a local militia named Ansar al Sharia participated in the assault. As first reported by the Daily Beast, members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were in contact with some of the Ansar al Sharia assailants. CNN has reported that members of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) are suspected of taking part in the assault.

Still another al Qaeda-linked network reportedly provided fighters for the Benghazi assault. Terrorists trained in Libyan camps set up by an Egyptian named Muhammad Jamal were among the attackers. According to The Wall Street Journal, Jamal “petitioned” Ayman al Zawahiri to establish a new al Qaeda affiliate and has also received funding from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Jamal (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed), a longtime military commander in Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), has long-established ties to several al Qaeda-linked jihadists who helped incite protesters in Cairo on Sept. 11.

The jihadists who instigated the US embassy protest in Cairo include Mohammed al Zawahiri, Ayman al Zawahiri’s younger brother. Mohammed al Zawahiri admittedly helped organize the protest. According to The Wall Street Journal, Mohammed al Zawahiri acted as a liaison between Jamal and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Two other EIJ leaders, Sheikh ‘Adel Shehato and Sheikh Tawfiq al Afni, also incited the Cairo protesters. Both Shehato and al Afni have openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda’s ideology.

Shehato was subsequently arrested by Egyptian authorities and charged with founding a terrorist cell in Nasr City, Cairo. That same cell has ties to Jamal, the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, and al Qaeda, according to Egyptian officials.

Another pro-al Qaeda ideologue who helped instigate protests in Cairo is Ahmed ‘Ashoush, who has been heavily featured in Ayman al Zawahiri’s recent videos.

Ayman al Zawahiri’s Sept. 10 video includes a clip of ‘Ashoush, Shehato, and Mohammed al Zawahiri. ‘Ashoush proclaims Osama bin Laden a martyr during the clip, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group. Shehato and Mohammed al Zawahiri are sitting nearby.

On Sept. 16, ‘Ashoush issued a fatwa calling for the makers of the film “Innocence of Muslims” to be killed.

‘Ashoush is shown in nine video clips that were included in a more recent Ayman al Zawahiri video, which was released on Oct. 24. ‘Ashoush has released statements in the name of Ansar al Sharia, a nascent jihadist organization in Egypt. That same brand, Ansar al Sharia, is used by al Qaeda-affiliated parties elsewhere.

Still another al Qaeda-linked jihadist played a role in the anti-American protest in Sana’a, Yemen on Sept. 13. The US embassy there was stormed after Sheikh Abdul Majeed al Zindani called for protests, according to The New York Times. Zindani is a known al Qaeda supporter.

In 2004, the US Treasury Department added Zindani to its list of designated terrorist supporters, calling him an Osama bin Laden “loyalist.” Zindani “has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders,” Treasury explained. Zindani “has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al Qaeda training camps” and “played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al Qaeda and other terrorists.”

The al Qaeda network, therefore, has significant ties to the three assaults on US diplomatic facilities mentioned by Ayman al Zawahiri.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Tom says:

    Real tough attacking diplomats. The bigger issue is that we just lost any real chance of a decent exit from Afghanistan. Four more years of our current strategy will seal our fate in that land. Al Qaeda will surely regroup there.

  • gazmags says:

    how is zawahiri still alive,bin laden very rarely did video or audio messages yet was tracked down and killed,zawahiri does a lot of audio and video,yet has no been tracked down….any answers

  • Stu says:

    I still don’t get how keeping “tabs” on AZ and MO is helping our cause. They oganize, they coordinate, they finance, they attack, they gloat: yet somehow we are to believe that we benefit by “watching” them to obtain Intelliegence. Clearly AZ is using Benghazi for recruiting purposes. And our professional Intelligence service, as some would say, needs time and patience for some kind of grand resoution with radical Islam. Please explain, or would the explaining give away our secret victory plan?

  • Arjuna says:

    Imtiaz Gul, a respected author writes that Zawahiri could be in Islamabad as that would be a suitable place for him to “strategise his takeover”… [strange word choice?]. There are lots of internet connections and cafes there. Wonderif he uses old Adam PG as videographer/link? Adam comes from LaLa land so might fancy himself something of a director. Losing Adam wouldn’t matter as much to AAZ perhaps. Years ago there were stories of him possibly hiding in female maddrassa. He’s not tall. Immediately after Abbotabad there were media reports he might have moved fromwherever else he was to the mountains near Kashmir. Islamabad feels right, given Abbotabad.

  • TEM says:

    The pre-9/11 mindset is alive and well in CIA,state dept,DOD,and the bureaucrats in DC. The current administration has projected an imagine of weakness,along with naive advisors. There will be more attacks.
    The CIA running a safe house two clicks from consulate was. Very poor tradecraft

  • mike merlo says:

    Unfortunately now that President Obama has won a second term some of Zawahiri’s future ‘observations’ have a favorable chance of ‘happening.’

  • gb says:

    The single biggest concern I have with the fall of the Libyan government is the loss of up to thousands of MANPAD’s. This is directly connected to the uprising at the consolate, as the CIA safe house team that came to the aid of the ambassador was in country trying to track these man portable missiles. Some have already turned up in Syria, and been used effectively by opposition forces. How long before airliners become fat targets for the extremists.

  • Mr. Nobody says:

    It’s sad but he’s right. We have been defeated by ourselves once again.

  • JRP says:

    If for no other reason than the fact that Zawahiri is the last of the very top Al Qaeda people involved in the 911 attacks remaining free, we should be going after him. There have long been rumors that he is in hiding in a densely populated place in Pakistan, such as Karachi, where it would be diplomatically impossible for us to either kill or capture him. He is under the passive protection of the Pakistani Govt or the Pakistani intelligence people for whom he is of no practical use, but who can’t be complicit in turning him over to the U.S. due to the popular outcry that would result. Our only hope is to capture someone else somewhere else who can give us and the World a first-hand narrative of exactly where Zawahiri is; what he is up to; and who is protecting him.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    You are missing the big picture. Even if Zawahiri is eliminated, the threat is regenerating itself quickly in other theaters. Northern Africa is becoming a serious problem. Egypt will become a problem in a decade (after they blame their crumbling economy on the West). Syria is quickly becoming a rallying point the the Neo-Al Qaeda elements. Jordan will have problems.Al Qaeda is morphing into something different. It’s my thesis that they will avoid confrontation with the West directly, and concentrate on the low hanging fruit in the Sunni regions of the world. The question is: What will the west do to influence this situation? Or should it? Power vacuums are filled, many times with undesirable elements.

  • Witch Doctor says:

    @ stu:
    I think you are correct that looking for AAZ is a waste of time. We will watch his minions who may provide some actionable intelligence. Much easier that way. Dive down and ask what is left of ObL.
    There is no solution for radical Islam as there is no real solution for radical anything.

  • K.A. says:

    What a joke!

  • Charu says:

    AAZ has got to be in an LeT safe house with full media access. Hafiz Saeed is the key. When he eventually gets kidnapped and waterboarded, the full story of how AQ thrives in Pakistan will finally come out.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    The outrageous Benghazi attack and four dead Americans? Anti-USA riots across the Arab world and AQ flags flying over several of our consulates after 9/11/12? Who cares? The media and failed GOP candidate never mentioned it – why would the mooks whose world revolves around “Dancing with the Stars”, “The Kardshians” and Fantasy Football care? It’s disgraceful where our priorities – across the Western World – lie.

  • gitsum says:

    Blah blah blah, the hasbeen Zawahiri is grasping at straws that he had nothing to do with. FORTUNATLY OBAMA was re-elected so its safe to assume that Zawahiris days are numbered just as anyone else who dare attack the U.S. and its allies including the newest one Libya. ( ha ha!)

  • blert says:

    OBL was under ACTIVE Pakistani protection, via the ISI.
    Military Cities — like Abbottabad — are NOT like the cities you know and love. You must have official PERMISSION to live there.
    Pakistan devolved from Hindu culture — with all of its castes. There are still Hindus, but not so many, in Pakistan. ( They’ve been leaving for decades. )
    And a part of that culture involves separation. Self ghetto-ization if you will.
    Abbottabad was founded by Mr. Abbott as a way for Europeans to get away from the locals, and in a very, very nice part of the country. The area is so beautiful that it was used for early Cinerama river rapids sequences. (The Indus)
    It never lost that special status.
    So, whereas most of urban Pakistan is riven with squalor, Abbottabad is almost a slice of England. ( With obvious adjustments since 1947 for local tastes. )
    It is extremely likely that AZ has a similar abode to OBL: he is a kept man.
    He earns his keep by inducing the DC crowd into shipping staggering financial aid to Pakistan under the pretense that it’s an ally — when, in fact, it is a enemy aggressor power with astonishing ambitions.
    Because of OBL’s termination, AZ has, most assuredly, been moved to ‘tight quarters’ such that his location is top secret — yet still quasi-deniable, should the worst come.
    Omar also has a similar arrangement.
    It is most unlikely that the ISI has chosen a monster city for them. Instead, a ‘quiet’ minor city, one without a crime problem, would suit them best. They’re hidden in what amount to be clones of Abbottabad.
    Under no circumstances would they be held all that far from a significant ISI HQ. In this manner, visits by ISI handlers can be buried in the chaff of daily motion surrounding an intelligence HQ.

  • Stephanie says:

    I agree that this is just a lot of pompous wind coming from his mouth right now … probably he is desperately trying to convince himself (and you) that he still has that all that status and power … but I’ll bet though too proud to admit it he realizes he doesn’t and this is just a lot of blathering to himself to pretend like he does.
    AQ’s propaganda strategy seems to be to arrogantly insist that they are winning and spin every turn of the war to look as such regardless of reality. People like Dr. Ayman really don’t hear how ridiculous they sound … and sadly a lot of the masses in the Muslim world are persuaded by them and actually believe this facade of strength that they portray.

  • Stu says:

    In reading the comments and counter thoughts, it is clear that many are thinking and analyzing, rather than choosing to believe the disinformation coming out of the mainstream media. I read LWJ–and have for the last 10 years–because I want to keep my sanity and not be lulled into total distraction by so-called respectable media (and I now include Fox News in that category).


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