DUBAI — Al Qaeda Chief Ayman al-Zawahiri urged the kidnapping of American citizens in a recent interview with As-Sahab, according to the SITE monitoring service.
During the two-part interview, al-Zawahiri was asked what he would instruct Muslims to do in order to work toward the release of Islamic militant prisoners.
“I advise them to capture Westerners, and especially the Americans as much as they can, to exchange them for their captives,” he said.
He specifically spoke of his desire to free Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as “the blind sheikh,” who is serving a life sentence in New York for his alleged involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
“I ask Allah the Glorious to help us set free Dr. Omar Abdel-Rahman and the rest of the captive Muslims,” al-Zawahiri said, “and I ask Allah to help us capture from among the Americans and the Westerners to enable us to exchange them for our captives.”
The Islamic leader went on to express his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in his home country of Egypt, in spite of efforts by the Egyptian military to keep the group in check following the ousting of President Mohamed Mursi.
“The duty on every Muslims is to deter the aggressor by any means, and especially the oppressed Muslims,” he said.
al-Zawahiri likewise exhorted Muslim rebels in Syria to unite in “jihad and overthrowing the criminal al-Assad regime.”
“The Ummah (Muslim world) must support this jihad with all that it can, and the mujahideen (Islamist militants) must unite around the word of Tawhid (unity),” he said, according to Reuters. “So everyone should prioritize the interest of Islam and the Ummah over his organizational or partisans interest, even if he gives up for his brothers what he sees as right.”
al-Zawahiri succeeded Osama Bin Laden as the leader of Al Qaeda in 2011 following the terrorist leader’s death. He has been pursued by U.S. officials since 1998 surrounding his role in the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. The Rewards for Justice Program of the U.S. Department of State is currently offering a reward of up to $25 million for information regarding al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts.
He is also wanted in his homeland of Egypt after being convicted in the “Returnees from Albania” criminal trial in the 1990’s.
While the recent interview footage could not be confirmed by Reuters as being al-Zawahiri, the outlet stated that the voice sounded like that of the Al Qaeda chief.