x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

9/11 attack 'paved way for Arab Spring' claims Al Qaeda leader

Ayman Al Zawahri, formerly Osama bin Laden's deputy, tries to take credit for wave of change that swept through the Middle East and North Africa this year.

CAIRO // Al Qaeda's new leader sought to claim credit for this year's Arab uprisings in a message yesterday marking the September 11 attacks on the United States 10 years ago,.

Ayman Al Zawahri said the 2001 attacks paved the way for the change that has swept through the Middle East and North Africa. He and other Al Qaeda figures have urged Arabs to replace the toppled regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with Islamic rule.

"By striking the head of the world criminal," Al Qaeda forced the US to press its allies in the Middle East to change their policies, which helped the "Arab volcano" to build up and explode, Al Zawahri said in the hour-long audio message.

Al Zawahri was Osama bin Laden's deputy and became the leader of Al Qaeda in June after bin Laden's death in the May 2 raid by US Navy Seals in Pakistan. Al Zawahri had a long history of fighting against Hosni Mubarak's rule in his home nation, leading militants who carried out deadly bombing and shooting attacks in the 1990s.

Islamic militants considered the regimes of Mr Mubarak and other US-allied autocrats in the Middle East to be corrupt, godless and too closely aligned with the West. The attacks were met with a crackdown by security forces that largely crushed their operations in Egypt.

In his new message, titled "The Dawn of Imminent Victory", Mr Al Zawahri also lashed out at the US for what he called "blatant deception" in showing support for the Arab uprisings while keeping strong ties with countries in the Gulf, such as Saudi Arabia.

The US has not said "anything to Al Saud, the killers of Muslims and the thieves of their wealth", he said, referring to the Saudi ruling family.

The new message released by Al Qaeda's media arm and posted on extremist websites included previously unreleased footage of bin Laden.