Was Al Queda Chief’s Brother Arrested In Syria?
The brother of al-Queda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has denied Western media reports claiming he was arrested by Syrian government forces while meeting rebels on Friday.
British newspaper the Independent reported on Friday that Mohamed al-Zawahiri, 59, was arrested while meeting opposition militants in the Syrian city of Dara’a. Previously, he spent 14 years in an Egypitian prison for his role in the 1981 assassination of former president Anwar Sadat and other terrorist acts.
The Islamic radical was allegedly on a humanitarian mission and not involved in violent attacks, according to the British report. He has offered to help negotiations between the U.S. and Islamists in the past.
“I came out of prison less than a year ago after spending 15 years there. Since then, I have not left Egypt,” Mohamed told Egyptian state-run newspaper al-Ahram.
“It (the report) is devoid of truth and is an attempt to raise fears about Islamists,” Ayman said.
Mohamed’s older brother Ayman, 61, became the head of al-Qaeda after U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Ayman has called for the overthrow of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed rebel factions waging a nearly two-year-long civil war there have been taken over by radical Islamic elements. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad repeated the charges during a rare public speech to supporters on Saturday.
Other reports in Western media have claimed hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists are active in Syria under the banner of the al-Nusra Front group. The U.S. State Department has designated the al-Nusra Front group as a terror organization linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Independent has since removed its report from its website, but it has been re-published in full by the Assyrian International News Agency.