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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Al Qaeda's Media Savy New Years Resolution

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Detroit Free Press, United States
December 20, 2007
BY ANNA JOHNSON
ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAIRO, Egypt

Al Qaeda has invited journalists to send questions to its No. 2 figure, Ayman al-Zawahri, in the first such interview offer by the increasingly media-savvy terror network since the 9/11 attacks.

The invitation is a new twist in Al Qaeda's campaign to reach a broader audience, and represents an attempt by al-Zawahri to present himself as a sophisticated leader rather than a mass murderer.

"I think their media capability is sophisticated as ever," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "It shows how this group with 7th-Century ideology is exploiting 21st-Century media capabilities."

It said it would take questions until Jan. 16, after which al-Zawahri would answer them at "the soonest possible occasion." It did not say whether his answers would come in writing, video or audiotape.

Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri have given a few interviews to Western and Arabic news media since they first rose to prominence in the 1990s. But neither has been interviewed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which toppled Al Qaeda's patrons, the Taliban, and sent Al Qaeda's leaders into hiding.

Since then, al-Zawahri has emerged as Al Qaeda's most prominent spokesman. He has appeared in at least 16 videos and audiotapes this year, compared to four for bin Laden.

Hoffman said al-Zawahri is also trying to boost his own image to look more like a true leader as opposed to a "homicidal thug."
posted by Travis, 9:41 am

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