Al-Zawahri made no mention of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul last month, SITE added. However, he did mention a January 1 attack that targeted Russian forces on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
Rumors have been circulating since the end of 2020 that al-Zawahri died of an illness. Since then, no video or evidence of life has surfaced until Saturday.
“He could still be dead, but if so, it would have been sometime in or after January 2021,” tweeted Rita Katz, director of SITE.
Al-Zawahri’s speech was recorded in a 61-minute and 37-second video produced by the group’s as-Sahab Media Foundation.
In recent years, al-Qaeda in jihadist circles has faced competition from its rival, the Islamic State. ISIS achieved fame by conquering large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” and expanding its allies to several countries across the region.
The physical “caliphate” of ISIS has been broken up in Iraq and Syria, although its fighters are still active and carrying out attacks. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shady leader of ISIS, was killed by US special forces in a raid in northwestern Syria in October 2019.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, became the leader of al-Qaeda following the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by US Navy SEALs in 2011.