Ahead of Tuesday’s eleventh anniversary of the September 11 terror assault on the United States, Egyptian Salafist and al-Qaeda operative Muhammad Al-Zawahiri, the younger brother of Osama bin-Laden’s successor as al-Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, justified the attacks in an interview on Al-Jazeera.
“The oppressed have a legitimate right to defend themselves. Someone who kills my children and burns down my home should not be angry if I kill his children and burn down his home,” said Zawahiri in the interview. “If I had bombed their home first, they could have claimed that I was the attacker.”
Muhammad al-Zawahiri was sentenced to death in 1999 for his role in anti-Egyptian government attacks in the 1990s, and was believed for some years to have been executed, but was then released from an Egyptian jail last year. He was rearrested on terrorism charges and released again in March. It was not clear from the Arabic-language interview — which was broadcast last month, but only translated and transcribed this weekend by MEMRI (the Washington, DC-based Middle East Media Research Institute) — where he was now based.
Zawahiri, whose older brother was formally confirmed as the leader of Al-Qaeda immediately after bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in May 2011 by US Navy SEALs, asserted that al-Qaeda operatives are bound by the laws of Islam. “We reject and condemn any killing that is prohibited by the shari’a,” he said in the interview,
“We must understand the background to every action. If America attacks the Arab peoples and their regimes do not defend them, somebody who does defend the Arab and Muslim peoples should not be considered a criminal. We must seek out the original crime, the one who began the aggression. We have done nothing wrong,” Zawahiri continued.
When challenged by the interviewer that it was the 9/11 attack that was the main reason for the occupation of Afghanistan and later of Iraq by the US, Zawahiri responded that this was not true and that “taking control of oil resources and groundwater was planned in the days of Kissinger a long time ago.”
“It wasn’t me who carried out 9/11, but at the same time, I don’t agree with the West that we should slaughter those who carried it out. Now that America has withdrawn its forces from our region, we will not attack it on its own turf,” he said.
The interviewer went on to ask Zawahiri why al-Qaeda chose to target the US and not Arab regimes it considers infidel or Israel.
“We consider anyone hostile towards the Muslims to be an enemy, but all in good time. At present, America is attacking our countries,” said Zawahiri. He then said that al-Qaeda had launched attacks against Israel, mentioning the 2002 attempted shooting down of an El Al plane in Kenya and an attack the same year on a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia.
“If al-Qaeda could reach… If the regimes of the Arab countries bordering Israel did not prevent it… Al-Qaeda wants to carry out attacks against Israel,” concluded Zawahiri.