Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, has called reports of his arrest in Syria as “an attempt to turn the Islamists into a scarecrow in the eyes of others” confirming to Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday that he remains present in Cairo and has not left the country.
Al-Zawahiri, who is one of the founding members of the Salafist Jihadist group in Egypt, stressed that what was reported by western media outlets about his arrest in Syria was completely untrue, describing these reports as “lies and falsehoods.” He asserted that the news of his arrest by the al-Assad regime was “fabricated”, confirming that he has not left the country. He said “I am present in Cairo and I attended my aunt’s funeral [yesterday].”
Western media reports claimed that security apparatus affiliated with the al-Assad regime had captured Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Deraa in south-west Syria where he was meeting with opposition activists.
However Sheikh Mohamed al-Zawahiri, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Cairo, stressed that he remains present in Egypt, adding that “the publication of this news is an attempt to keep people in the dark and turn the Islamists into a scarecrow in the eyes of others.”
Britain’s The Independent newspaper claimed that Mohamed al-Zawahiri was meeting with Syrian activists in Deraa when he was arrested, adding that the al-Assad regime would likely try to capitalize on his presence in the country “as proof of their repeated charge that the revolution has been taken over by ‘terrorists’.”
The report also claimed that “rebel fighters insisted Mohamed al-Zawahiri was engaged on a humanitarian mission and had not been involved in violent acts. They also claimed that he had, in fact, proposed a local truce to enable aid to get through.”
As for who he believes responsible for these rumours , al-Zawahiri told Asharq Al-Awsat “the western intelligence agencies are responsible for this” confirming that “their agents are present everywhere.” He added “the western media is the one who spreads such rumors in order to frighten the people.”
Egyptian media observers claimed that the false reports of al-Zawahiri’s capture in Syria were the result of “intelligence leaks to draw attention to the presence of a jihadist trend in Syria made up of Arab mujahedeen, including some from Egypt.”
However al-Zawahiri yesterday strongly denied these allegations. The Al Qaeda chief’s brother attended the funeral of his aunt, Dr. Karima al-Zawahiri, at Abu El Makarem Mosque, in Cairo yesterday. Dr. Karima al-Zawahiri was a professor of pediatrics at Cairo University.
When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat’s regarding the current situation in Egypt, al-Zawahiri said “the situation in Egypt is getting better” before adding “although it has not met our demands until now to completely implement Islamic Sharia law.”
He added “we still remain far from the implementation of Islamic Sharia law; however what we are experiencing now is better than what we experienced in the past, and there is an atmosphere where we are completely free to express our opinions.”
However al-Zawahiri stressed “despite this, the implementation of Islamic Sharia law has not happened…and we call for the complete implementation of Islamic Sharia law.”
Mohamed al-Zawahiri spent 14 years in Egypt’s prisons on charges relating to the assassination of former president Anwar Sadat in 1981 and other terrorist charges. Following his release, al-Zawahiri stressed that he is currently spending his time attempting to achieve reconciliation between jihadists and other Muslims.
As for his expectations for the forthcoming anniversary of the 25 January revolution, Sheikh al-Zawahiri said “we pray to God that this does not include any clashes or unrest.”
Mohamed al-Zawahiri was the commander of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad group, however he confirmed that he has renounced violence and is now working as an intermediary between the radical Salafist groups present on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Cairo. Last year, al-Zawahiri volunteered to mediate negotiations between the US and Islamists.