Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri 'died one month ago', reports claim
Journalist and NYT Best Selling Author Hassan Hassan broke the news on Twitter after reportedly "corroborating" with sources close to Al-Qaeda.
“Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda leader & Osama bin Laden successor, died a month ago of natural causes in his domicile. The news is making the rounds in close circles,” he said.
Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group also weighed in with a tweet saying the rumours are yet to be verified but noted it was typical of Al-Qaeda not to announce deaths.
“Unconfirmed reports circulating that Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has served as leader of al-Qaeda since Usamah bin Laden was killed in 2011, died of illness a month ago. Al-Qaeda has not yet confirmed these reports,” Katz said on Friday.
“If he is dead, it is unclear who would be the successor. Ra’uf was a recent candidate but was killed 2 wks ago. Besides Hamza bin Laden, whose fate AQ still has not acknowledged, no other officials have been publicly groomed to take a leading role in the organization.
“It is very typical of AQ to not publish news about the death of its leaders in a timely manner. For instance, the group never confirmed the death of Hamza bin Laden. When Adam Gadahn (AKA Azzam the American) died in 2015, it took the group five months to acknowledge his death,” she added in subsequent tweets.
The militant leader’s death has yet to be announced by the group but his health has been reportedly deteriorating since last year, according to US officials, who suggested he may have heart issues.
The Egyptian born al-Qaeda leader - who took charge after Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 - is thought to be somewhere in Pakistan's unruly border region hiding from a global manhunt.
He communicates with the group's remaining supporters through semi-regular video lectures, reiterating - as in his latest message - the need to target the United States.
He last appeared in a video to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people when airliners slammed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
In that video, Al-Zawahiri called on Muslims to attack US, European, Israeli and Russian targets.
SITE Intelligence Group reported that in a video released by the Al-Qaeda, Zawahiri also criticised "backtrackers from jihad", referring to former militants who changed their views in prison and called the 9/11 attacks unacceptable because innocent civilians were harmed.
Reports of Al-Zawahiri’s death this week came as a New York Times article suggested his deputy Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, was secretly killed in Iran in August, despite the militant group previously announcing his death in 2017.
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Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who was on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists, was shot and killed in Tehran by two Israeli operatives on a motorcycle at the behest of the United States, intelligence officials confirmed to the Times.
The attack, which took place on August 7 on the anniversary of the Africa bombings, has not been publicly acknowledged by the US, Iran, Israel or Al-Qaeda.
The senior Qaeda leader, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Osama bin Laden's son Hamza bin Laden, the Times said.
However, in 2017, Al-Qaeda confirmed the top leader, dubbed by analysts as "jihadi royalty" was killed in a drone strike by the US-led coalition in Syria.
The statement at the time also expressed its condolences to al-Qaeda chief al-Zawahiri.
Agencies contributed to this report.