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On September 9, 2016, Al-Qaeda's media wing Al-Sahab released a video message by the group's leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Al-Zawahiri reiterates the reasons behind the attacks and their impact on the U.S., and urges the mujahideen to focus on targeting the U.S. and its allies, and to bring the battle onto their own soil as well. Appealing to non-Muslim African-Americans, he blames their woes on the U.S. and calls to them to convert to Islam.
Most of the 20-minute video consists of Al-Zawahiri's message, and the final several minutes feature an archival address by Osama bin Laden. Additionally, archival footage of a Malcolm X address is played as Al-Zawahiri appeals to African-Americans.
Below are the main points of the message:
Al-Zawahiri praises the "blessed raids" of 9/11, noting that they managed to strike deep within the U.S. and to attack its economic symbols, i.e. the Twin Towers. He also notes that the final and fourth hijacked airplane, United Flight 93, was heading towards "the biggest criminals in the White House or the Congress." Al-Zawahiri boasts that 9/11 was a wakeup call to the U.S., reminding it that its crimes against Muslims won't go unnoticed. The attacks' impact, according to Al-Zawahiri, continues to be felt today, and its memory will forever be remembered by the Americans.
Addressing the U.S., Al-Zawahiri reminds it: "The events of 9/11 were a direct result of your crimes against us, your crimes in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Islamic Maghreb, and Egypt [and] the result of your occupation of Muslim lands, theft of their resources, and support for the murderous corrupt criminals, who rule over them." He further threatens the U.S.: "As long as your crimes continue, the events of 9/11 will be repeated thousands of times, by the will of Allah. And we will follow you - if you don't cease your aggression [against us] - until the Day of Judgment..."
Moving on to the subject of the mujahideen, Al-Zawahiri informs the U.S. that their strength is increasing by the day: "There it is, the jihadi awakening [movement] increasing - thanks to Allah - many times over what it used to be before the blessed raids," he says.
Addressing the mujahideen, Al-Zawahiri urges them to focus on attacking the U.S. and its allies, and on trying as much as possible to shift the battle onto these countries' own soil. In that regard, he notes that the defeat of the U.S. will lead to the defeat of its lackeys. He also urges the mujahideen to unite, pledge allegiance to the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan (the Taliban), support the revolutions across the Muslim world, and urge prominent Islamic leaders to form the nucleus of a future council that will be tasked with appointing an imam (leader) for all Muslims.
Speaking to the Muslims in general, Al-Zawahiri implores them to rise up against their rulers: "It has become clear to you that your rulers are tools in the hands of the secular Safavid Crusader alliance, the alliance of the devils, headed by American and the West," he says. He also urges them to disavow these rulers, and to adopt the path of da'wa and jihad: "Your true soldiers are your mujahideen sons... who wish for you to live free and honored in the shade of the righteous caliphate, in which the ummah chooses, holds accountable, and ousts its imam."
Al-Zawahiri also lashes out at the various Islamic movements that have emerged in the awake of the Arab Spring, calling them "sheep" and agents of the U.S. who have hijacked the sacrifices of the Muslims. He also calls on the Muslims to be the real lions - like the mujahideen - who refuse to live under these corrupt and apostate regimes.
Finally, Al-Zawahiri appeals to non-Muslims, particularly African Americans, blaming their woes on the U.S. and calling them to Islam. His message is augmented with an address by Malcolm X. Al-Zawahiri says: "We inform every weakened [person] in the world: America is the source of calamity and the head of evil in this world, and it is the thief of nations' aliment, and it is the one who humiliate the Africans [i.e. African Americans] until this day, and no matter how much they try to reform and obtain their rights according to the law and the [U.S.] constitution, they will not attain it, for the law is in the hands of the white majority, [who] control it as they wish. And they [i.e. African Americans] will not be saved but by Islam."