As commandos descended on Mumbai in search of suspected Islamic militants believed to still be holed up in the terrorized city, al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahiri surfaced in a video sent to jihadist message forums Thursday, but made no mention of the attacks that have killed at least 119 people and injured hundreds more.
"I think it's probably that the video was made before the Mumbai attacks," said ABC News Consultant and former CIA officer John Kiriakou. "They have a courier system to release these videos so sometimes it takes as long as a week to get to its outlet."
The tape, presented as an interview conducted by al Qaeda's media team, as-Sahab, shows Zawahiri touching on many issues, including the state of jihad and criticisms of the U.S. and its activity in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the SITE Intelligence Group Monitoring Service.
SITE reports that Zawahiri "attacks the United States for disseminating false propaganda about their successes and maintains that the United States is doomed to failure in Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan."
Kiriakou characterized Zawahiri's message as "very defensive," which, he added, has been the trend in the al Qaeda leader's recent statements.
"When he says that the United States is failing in Afghanistan, it's actually because we're making gains in Afghanistan," said Kiriakou. "We're making inroads against al Qaeda in the tribal areas, and that's worrisome to al Qaeda."
But al Qaeda is not expected to remain silent about the attacks that reportedly set out to target American and British citizens.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we see another message from them in the coming days talking about Mumbai," said Kiriakou.
The tape, which is an hour and twenty minutes long and titled "Al Azhar: The Lion's Den," comes a week after Zawahiri's most recent video message in which he made racial slurs against U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and condemned his plan to move U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.