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The Al Qaeda Connection

Those were not spontaneous protests.

Sep 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 02 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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In neighboring Egypt, the assault on the U.S. embassy was not deadly as in Libya, but it was sinister nonetheless. Shortly after an al Qaeda-style flag was hoisted in place of the Stars and Stripes, some noticed that Mohammed al Zawahiri was on the scene. He is the younger brother of Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda since Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011. After spending more than a decade in an Egyptian prison, Mohammed al Zawahiri was suddenly freed in March.

In interviews with CNN and Al Jazeera, Mohammed al Zawahiri has attempted to portray himself as almost a moderate, willing to broker a peace between the Islamists and America. A close examination of his words reveals that is not true. Even in his most recent interviews Mohammed al Zawahiri justifies the 9/11 attacks and says he shares the same ideology as his older brother. He has gone further, gloating that no matter how many senior al Qaeda leaders America kills, al Qaeda’s ideology is spreading.

Ayman al Zawahiri made the same point in a video released on September 10. That video features a clip of the younger brother in one of his televised interviews. Ayman al Zawahiri also offered to exchange an American captive named Warren Weinstein, who is being held by al Qaeda, for the Blind Sheikh.

In fact, the more closely one looks at the events in Egypt the more they appear to have been deliberately staged by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups. “We called for the peaceful protest joined by different Islamic factions including the Islamic Jihad [and the] Hazem Abu Ismael movement,” Mohammed al Zawahiri admitted, according to CNN. The Islamic Jihad to which he referred is also known as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and is an important member in good standing of al Qaeda’s international jihadist coalition. Also participating in the anti-American rally was Gamaa Islamiya (IG), a designated terrorist organization that still reveres its spiritual leader, the Blind Sheikh. Weeks before anyone had heard of The Innocence of Muslims, the EIJ and IG had decided to rally for the sheikh’s freedom on September 11.

Known al Qaeda allies have been instrumental in fomenting the protests elsewhere as well. In Yemen, according to the New York Times, a cleric named Abdul Majid al Zindani “urged followers to emulate the protests in Libya and Egypt.” Hours later, protests erupted in Yemen, and the U.S. embassy in Sanaa was stormed. Zindani has been on the Treasury Department’s list of “specially designated global terrorists” since 2004. In designating him, Treasury cited Zindani’s close relationship with Osama bin Laden. Zindani is an especially influential jihadist cleric who leads a network of radical schools and whose students have regularly joined al Qaeda.

The protests spread across the globe quickly. It would be naïve to think that al Qaeda and its comrades in arms orchestrated all of them. It would be even more naïve, however, to attribute them to spontaneous outbursts against a pathetic film. The fact that they started on September 11 points to a deliberate plan by Islamist extremists and terrorists to make a splash once again.Their plan worked.

The Arab world has exploded in a fit of anti-American anger. An American ambassador has been killed. And the Obama administration is focusing on a video that up until September 10 almost no one had watched.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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