Al Qaeda's number two Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a new video message praising the terrorist organization's slain commander in Afghanistan, the IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors militant messages, said Wednesday.
The nine minute, 59 seconds-long tape, entitled "An Elegy to the Martyred Commander Abu Laith al-Libi," was issued by al-Sahab, the organization's media branch. The video has English subtitles, IntelCenter said. It's authenticity could not be immediately verified.
Al-Libi is believed to have been killed by a missile from a U.S. Predator drone that struck his safehouse in Pakistan in late January. He was viewed as a top Al Qaeda strategist in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistani intelligence described him as the operational commander of Al Qaeda in the border region and one of the militant group's most high-profile figures after its leader, Usama bin Laden, and his deputy al-Zawahiri.
The video released Wednesday was posted on a web site that usually releases Al Qaeda messages. The site also displayed a banner advertising an upcoming "interview" of al-Zawahiri by al-Sahab, with a picture of him in a white traditional Arab robe and white turban, seated before a bookshelf. Such advertisements are usually posted up to 72 hours before the message is released.
Al-Zawahiri — seen by many counterterrorism experts to be Al Qaeda's operational chief, rather than bin Laden — is believed to play a large role in directing Al Qaeda's strategy on the ground and issues frequent videos an audiotapes, often laying out the network's doctrinal line.
The message released Wednesday was the first tape or video issued by al-Zawahiri this year. He issued 15 in 2007.