US doubts Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri has fled Pakistan

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : US intelligence officials doubt reports that Al Qaida’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has fled Pakistan and gone to either Yemen or Somalia.

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“We have no information to indicate that he is anywhere else than in Pakistan,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday following the release of a video in which Osama bin Laden’s successor blasts the United States.

Al-Zawahiri — in the 62-minute video entitled “The Dawn of Imminent Victory,” and which featured a speech by bin Laden — said he was praying this year’s Arab Spring would be followed by a “gloomy, bitter-cold American Winter.”

The Pentagon said the footage of bin Laden in the video appeared to be the same material found in the US raid on his Pakistan hideout in May, which Washington released but without its soundtrack.

Earlier, officials cited by MSNBC said it would be extremely risky for al-Zawahiri to try to move “outside his circle of protection” at this point, and that ever since bin Laden’s death, al-Zawahiri spends most of his time “trying to stay alive.”

One senior official, noting the claim that al-Zawahiri fled Pakistan came from a Pakistani intelligence official, said: “These are the same people who insisted all along that bin Laden was in Afghanistan.”

A Pakistani intelligence official told NBC News Wednesday that al-Zawahiri is likely hiding in either Yemen or Somalia. He and his key commanders are believed to have “migrated” from South Asia, the source was cited as saying.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])