In a new video, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri celebrates the fall of Arab "despots," as well as what he calls "the defeats of their master America," including 9/11 and U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"[Osama bin Laden] attacked America at its core in the biggest attacks since Pearl Harbor," says Zawahiri in the 13-minute video, released on jihadist websites late Tuesday, and calls the U.S. "the symbol of murder in human history." He says America "was defeated in Iraq and had to withdraw," and has also been "defeated in Afghanistan, where it was started to withdraw.
Wearing a white turban and sitting in an armchair, without the rifle he has had by his side in past messages, Zawahiri also calls the regime changes in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt defeats for the U.S.
The message is the sixth that Zawahiri has released since the death of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid in May, and the fourth released since Zawahiri assumed command of the terror group in June.
Zawahiri, 60, an Egyptian-born doctor, helped found al Qaeda with bin Laden, merging bin Laden's group with his own Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Together they issued a fatwa in 1998, believed to have been authored by Zawahiri, called "World Islamic Front Against Jews and Crusaders," and also called a general meeting of al Qaeda.
Their shared career of terror began with the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania later that year, and continued with the USS Cole attack of 2000 and then 9/11. Zawahiri is under indictment in the U.S. for the embassy attacks. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. has offered $25 million for information leading to the death or capture of Zawahiri.
Zawahiri officially assumed control of al Qaeda in June. In a message released in August, just three weeks before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, he urged "Muslim brothers everywhere" to continue to target the United States, and to avenge bin Laden's death.
"America today is staggering," said Zawahiri. "Hunt her down wherever you may encounter her. Hunt her down to cut what is left of her corruption's tail."
"Pursue America, which killed the 'Imam of the Mujahedeen' and threw his body into the sea, and then captured his women and sons," said Zawahiri. "Hunt her down until history says that a murderous country spread corruption in the earth so God sent his faithful to her to make an example out of her."
Immediately prior to the anniversary, U.S. officials were scrambling to sort through information that the CIA developed indicating that at least three individuals entered the U.S. in August by air with the intent to launch a vehicle-borne attack against Washington, D.C. or New York around the anniversary, according to intelligence officials.
Officials say the alleged terror plot, which they described as specific and credible, was initiated by Zawahiri.
Zawahiri also applauded the Arab Spring revolutions in a tape released in September, entitled "The Dawn of Imminent Victory," as a devastating blow to American interests. In that message, he also praised the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as "invasions" that "shook the foundations of the global crusaders and still shake it."