A video featuring Ayman al-Zawahri is being touted as the first proof in months that the reclusive leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization is still alive.
In the video released on April 5, Zawahri praises an Indian Muslim woman who in February defied a ban on wearing an Islamic hijab in schools in India’s southwestern Karnataka state.
There is no clear indication of Zawahri's location in the video, released by Al-Qaeda media arm Al-Sahab and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. NGO that tracks online activity of white supremacist and jihadist organizations.
Zawahri is shown in the video wearing a traditional white head scarf beside a poster praising “the noble woman of India.”
A previous video of Zawahri, which circulated last September, made no reference to the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan a month earlier, stirring up rumors that it wasn't current and that the leader could be dead. It did mention the January 1, 2021, attack by an Al-Qaeda affiliate that targeted Russian troops in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
Zawahri took over leadership of Al-Qaeda after the 2011 death of Osama bin Laden, killed by U.S. Navy Seals during a nighttime raid in Pakistan. Bin Laden, who masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, was found in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, about 100 kilometers from the capital, Islamabad.
Zawahri has been rumored to be in the remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar and Badakhshan provinces, on the border with Pakistan.
The border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan is lined with inhospitable mountain ranges that have served over the years as a safe haven for a number of terrorist groups in the region.