Nearly two decades on from the September 11 terror attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri has called on Muslims to attack US, European, Israeli and Russian targets in a speech.
“If you want Jihad to be focused solely on military targets, the American military has presence all over the world, from the East to the West,” he said in a 33-minute, 28-second video produced by the group’s as-Sahab Media Foundation.
“Your countries are littered with American bases, with all the infidels therein and the corruption they spread.”
Al-Zawahri’s reference to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory in March, is an indicator of when the speech may have been recorded.
He called on Palestinians to seek “martyrdom” by attacking Israelis with a suicide vest in response.
SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks the online activity of jihadist groups, reported that the 68-year-old also criticised “backtrackers” from jihad, referring to former jihadis who changed their views in prison and called the 9/11 attacks unacceptable because innocent civilians were harmed.
The co-ordinated al-Qaeda hijackings on September 11, 2001 killed nearly 3000 people when airliners slammed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and another crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Over recent years, al-Qaeda has been engaged in fending off competition in jihadi circles from its rival, the Islamic State group.
IS exploded into prominence by seizing large regions of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and while the UN reported in July that the “immediate global threat posed by al-Qaeda remains unclear”, it also warned some would-be-IS recruits could turn to the organisation instead.
Al-Qaeda militants have adopted a lower profile, using regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen to entrench themselves. Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden, had been viewed as the heir to al-Qaeda’s leadership, but was killed in military operation.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, became the leader of al-Qaeda following the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by US Navy SEALS. The UN cited that he is “in poor health”, and he is believed to be hiding somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions.