London-based Saudi weekly Al-Majallah has published in its latest edition (Dec. 16-22) a telephone interview it conducted with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man and leader of Egypt’s Jihad group. The Egyptian born, 50 year-old physician has been indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. He is currently on the F.B.I’s Most Wanted List, and was dubbed by Western intelligence agencies as the ‘operational brains’ behind the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
With the exception of the telephone interview with Al-Majallah, he has remained a shadowy figure, carefully avoiding the media. There are conflicting reports that he is injured.
However, Al-Zawahiri told Al-Majallah that his family, and that of his Arab fighters were alive and well. He stated that many of the families of the Arab and other fighters were in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and other main Afghan cities. He added that he believed that the family members were safe as they were civilians, though some women had been raped in Jalalabad and Kabul, contrary to what he believed was the ‘pure’ nature of the Afghan people.
Unwilling to disclose his exact location during the time of the interview, Al-Zawahiri commented that he was not hiding in the caves nor avoiding confrontation; suicide was a sought-after aspiration. He relayed that he and his fighters have pledged to fight until death. He said that if the U.S. was properly informed, they would not have been attacking the Tora Bora stronghold in search of both he and bin Laden.
Al-Zawahiri commented on the greed of those seeking to obtain the U.S. ‘bribe’ money the Americans offered for the capture of him and Osama bin Laden. He added that bin Laden and al Qaeda spokesman Sulayman Abu-Ghaith were at the forefront of the fighters. He claimed that the U.S. and its ‘propaganda machine’ were oblivious to the real truth about al Qaeda fighters, positions, and conditions.
The close companion of Osama bin Laden conveyed that al Qaeda had achieved brilliant military victories in the recent days before the interview, via suicide operations; namely, the blowing up of a Northern Alliance helicopter over the Farkhar area near Taloqan. He speaks of another suicide operation in which a British Muslim woman blew herself up, killing two Americans. The dog-tags of these soldiers are in his forces hands as evidence, he claims.
Al-Zawahiri boldly tells Al-Majallah that the retreat from the major Afghan cities was calculated and strategic, and that the real war is in the mountains. Organized guerrilla warfare will resume in the cities. In addition, the retreat to fortified strongholds was initiated because al Qaeda leaders realized that some Afghanis would weaken before the U.S. bribe money.
Al-Zawahiri rebuffed claims that Mullah Mohammad Omar had been captured in Kandahar. He scoffs at the U.S.-led campaign, saying that it has not achieved its objective during a nearly three-month long campaign.
Born in Egypt in 1951, Ayman al-Zawahiri, comes from a middle class family of doctors and scholars. He graduated from Cairo University's medical school in 1974 and obtained a master’s degree in surgery four years later. Following the death of Bin Laden's religious mentor - the Palestinian scholar Abdullah Azzam - in a car bomb in Peshawar, al-Zawahiri appears to have taken on the role of chief ideologue in the Bin Laden group. Some believe that Zawahiri now controls much of al Qaeda's finance operations. (Albawaba.com)
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