Al Qaeda plans to fake the death of Ayman al Zawahiri’s dead leader

Al Qaeda plans to fake the death of Ayman al Zawahiri’s dead leader

Al Qaeda plans to announce a fake cause of death for former leader Ayman al Zawahiri, who was already killed by a US airstrike, according to senior sources in the jihadi movement.

The plan would see al Qaeda announce that Zawahiri has died of ill health, even as Joe Biden held a press conference to say that Osama bin Laden’s successor had been taken out in a precision strike in an exclusive district of Kabul six months ago.

When the United States eliminated bin Laden in 2011 in a nighttime raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, al-Qaeda acknowledged his death within four days, and Zawahiri became the new “emir-general of al-Qaeda” without hesitation.

Joe Biden announced that he approved the killing of Ayman al Zawahiri the day after he was hit by a drone strike.

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Sources close to al Qaeda told The Daily Beast that the Taliban have begged al Qaeda not to confirm or deny Zawahiri’s death. “Hiding the martyrdom of Zawahiri is the result of secret understandings between the Taliban and al Qaeda,” said a senior jihadist in the region.

The Taliban, who took back control of Afghanistan in August 2021, have been in complete denial. After the strike, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they would conduct a full investigation into the July strike, but there has still been no official word.

The attack was an embarrassment to the Taliban on many levels. The group had agreed to cut ties with al-Qaeda under the Doha peace deal with the Trump administration in 2019, so it was extremely difficult when it emerged that the terrorist group’s leader lived in one of the most luxurious neighborhoods in the capital. From the perspective of other jihadists, the US attack also made it clear that the Taliban were unable to offer protection.

A source close to jihadist elements said evidence has been uncovered that the CIA had even penetrated the compound where Zawahiri was hiding, with alleged findings of spy cameras and other surveillance devices inside the house – even in Zawahiri’s bed. In September, the CIA revealed a highly detailed model of the property in their museum in Virginia, indicating the high level of detail gathered on the house.

However you look at it, the assassination made the Taliban even more isolated. Their first regime was overthrown by the US in 2001 when Washington demanded they hand over Osama Bin Laden after 9/11, but they refused to do so.

Having lost one government to al-Qaeda, they are determined not to be destabilized by their fellow jihadists this time. Sources said the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous offshoot of the Taliban organization, has been lobbying al-Qaeda to keep quiet.

Ayman al Zawahiri was a key al-Qaeda operative under Osama bin Laden’s leadership of the terrorist group.

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Al Qaeda has gone along with the plan – releasing apparently new audio of Zawahri last month – though attributing the emir’s death to illness rather than the Americans denying him the honor of martyrdom.

“Zawahiri and Osama wanted martyrdom of disbelief, both got their wish, but al-Qaeda is hiding it to save the Taliban from disaster and the consequences of having a top leadership in the Taliban capital,” said another senior jihadist source, who has met Zawahri.

A new manager has not yet been identified. Jihadist sources in the region told The Daily Beast that there are three members of al-Qaeda in the running to become the new emir of the global organization; Saif al Adel, an al-Qaeda veteran wanted by the US since 1998, Yasin al-Suri, allegedly a senior financier for the terror outfit based in Iran, and Zawahiri’s son-in-law Abdal Rahman al Maghrebi, a Moroccan national who lived in the house there Zawahiri was killed according to sources close to al Qaeda.

It is also expected that the new emir will be based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran region rather than the Arabian Peninsula since the Taliban now control Afghanistan and the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is a growing presence in the tribal Pashtun areas of northern western Pakistan. Many senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures have been hiding in the region for two decades despite the heavy US and allied presence.

Another former jihadist close to al Qaeda elements in the region says the rush to succeed Zawahiri has also been stalled because of Taliban influence. “The Taliban said to al-Qaeda: ‘We once sacrificed our regime for al-Qaeda.’ If al Qaeda confirms his death in the Kabul attack, it will embarrass the Taliban, so they are keeping the death and successor under wraps and planning to announce it as a natural death,” he told The Daily Beast. “Al Qaeda wanted to have a public funeral under the Islamic regime of the Taliban, but the Taliban would not allow it.”

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