The brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has said that recent Arab revolts would not have seen successful had not it been for pressure by Salafi jihadists who fought against the US and brought war to its soil through the September 11 attacks.
"We are bound by Islamic Sharia, we do not kill without a cause," Mohamed al-Zawahiri told Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr late Tuesday, in his first TV interview. He noted that the attack on New York’s World Trade Center in September 2001 put the United States under pressure, because it led to the death of the FBI chief and forced the country to recant its support for a number of despotic Arab leaders.
Zawahiri admitted Al-Qaeda’s failure to reach Israel due to Arab rulers.
“If we have the chance we will hit it (Israel),” he said. He also denied the presence of any jihadist elements in Sinai.
He revealed that jihadists are continuously reviewing their doctrines, and that one former leader of the dissolved State Security Investigation Services had threatened to kill him if he would not accept security reviews of their ideas.
Egypt's then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces released Zawahiri in March 2011 as part of a scheme to free Islamist prisoners detained in political cases. He had been in detention since 1999.
But Zawahiri was rearrested three days after his release when security authorities discovered he had been sentenced to death in absentia in 1998 in the "Albania returnees" case. He was acquitted on appeal by a military court in March this year.
"Albania returnees" refers to Islamist hardliners who joined Muslim resistance in the Balkans against the Soviet Union. The flow of jihadist fighters to the region started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Some of them returned to Egypt, while others moved to other fronts in the Balkans, such as Albania.
Egyptian authorities had charged the returnees with plotting a coup and conspiring to murder civilians and target tourists and Christians.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm