Al-Qaida head Zayman al-Zawahiri is shown speaking in a new propaganda video released Thursday.
An al-Qaida propaganda outlet has released a new video featuring al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leader of Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, apparently indicating that the latter group has been formally incorporated into the umbrella terror organization.
The video distributed by al-Qaida’s “As-Sahab Media” shows al-Zawahiri, who ascended to al-Qaida's top post after the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, addressing the camera. Al-Shabaab leader, Mukhtar Abu az-Zubeir is shown in a photo and heard offering a “bayat,” or oath of allegiance, to al-Zawahiri.
Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News terrorism analyst, said the two men are not seen together in the tape and that it appears al Zawahiri and az-Zubeir recorded their comments separately and that they were then were edited together.
According to a translation provided by Kohlmann, al-Zawahiri said in the tape, "Today I bring glad tidings to our Muslim Ummah (community), happy tidings that please the believers and displeases the crusaders, which is the joining of Shabaab al-Mujahideen in Somalia to Qaida't al-Jihad in support of the Jihad unity in the face of the Zionist-crusader campaign and their helpers of cooperatives traitor rulers who brought in the crusader invasive forces to their countries."
The implications of a formal link between al-Shabaab and al-Qaida would be worrisome, considering that as many as 50 American citizens are believed to be members of al-Shabaab in Somalia and at least three are known to have carried out suicide bombings inside that east African nation. (In addition, another 150 Europeans and others who wouldn't require a visa to enter the U.S. belong to al-Shabaab.)
It also may indicate that al-Qaida, decimated by predator drone attacks and the Osama Bin Laden raid, is seeking new recruits for its operations.
This is the first video of al-Zawahiri in more than two months. In the last video, issued on Dec. 1, boasted that al-Qaida had seized aid worker Warren Weinstein, a 70-year-old American, in Lahore, Pakistan, last August. There's been no further word on whether Weinstein remains alive since then.