Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledges the death of one of the group's top experts on chemical and biological warfare, and laments the "oppression" of Americans and the "injustice" of the Pakistani government in a new video released on the internet today.
In the video, Zawahiri refers to Abu Khabab al-Masri, an Egyptian chemist who ran Al Qaeda's top training base in Afghanistan and was killed in a missile strike in July in Pakistan.
Terrorism experts say the strike was probably a U.S. operation. "It was likely an unmanned aerial vehicle that dropped the bomb," said Christine Fair, a terrorism analyst at RAND Corporation.
Zawahiri said in the video that al-Masri fulfilled his desire to carry out a "martyrdom mission," arranged by his cohorts. Experts, however, said that as a 55-year old chemist, he was an unlikely candidate for a suicide mission, which are usually carried out by younger mujahideen.
Zawahiri also lists other mujahideen who have recently died and said, "They have returned to God to complain about the oppression of the Americans, and the injustice of the Pakistani government."
Wearing a white robe and a white turban, Zawahiri speaks calmly during the almost four minute video, released by al Qaeda's production company, as Sahab. He sits in front of a green graphic with still photos of two mujahideen in the background.
Zawahiri is known to terrorism experts as a divisive leader among members of al Qaeda.
"He is not a very inspiring man, in contrast to Osama bin Laden, and has proven to make some enemies in al Qaeda," said Richard Barrett, coordinator of the United Nations al Qaeda/Taliban Monitoring team.
Barrett said Zawahiri, an Egyptian, has nevertheless been successful in recruiting some of his countrymen to al Qaeda.
Zawahiri's most recent message before today was delivered in English, which he had never done before. In it, he called for Pakistanis to support jihad. The audio statement aired August 10, 2008, on the Pakistan television station, ARY One World.
In the message, Zawahiri said he used English because he wanted to speak directly to the Pakistani people, according to IntelCenter, a Washington-based firm that tracks terrorism. Zawahiri said he cannot speak Urdu, the predominant language spoken there.
Zawahiri has been indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
The U.S. Department of State is offering a reward of up to $25 million for information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction of Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
Zawahiri is a physician and the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). This organization opposes the secular Egyptian Government and seeks its overthrow through violent means. In approximately 1998, the EIJ led by Zawahiri merged with Al Qaeda, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.