Al-Zawahri made no mention of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul last month, SITE added. But he mentioned a January 1 attack that targeted Russian troops on the outskirts of the city of Raqqa in northern Syria.
Rumors have spread since late 2020 that al-Zawahri died of illness. Since then, no video or evidence of life has surfaced, until Saturday.
“He could still be dead, but if he was, it would have been at some point in January 2021 or after,” 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 has faced competition in jihadist circles from its rival, the Islamic State group. IS rose to prominence by seizing large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” and expanding its affiliates to several countries in the region.
ISIS’s physical “caliphate” has been crushed in Iraq and Syria, although its militants are still active and carry out attacks. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the dark head of ISIS, was killed by US special forces during a raid in northwestern Syria in October 2019.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, became the leader of Al-Qaeda following the 2011 assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by the US Navy SEALs.