Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is alive, communicating freely: UN report

New Delhi: Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is confirmed to be living in Afghanistan and ‘communicating freely’, according to a recent report by the United Nations which also warned against the growing strength of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and Islamic State posing a great threat to the world.

According to Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the 30th report of the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that the proof that Al-Zawahiri was alive comes from the video messages issued by the group.

“Al-Zawahiri’s apparent increased comfort and ability to communicate has coincided with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the consolidation of power of key Al Qaeda allies within their de facto administration,” it noted.

The Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN took notice of the recent activities of Al Qaeda, the militant Islamic State (IS) group and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, and stated that the two terrorist outfits remain active in conflict-hit regions and neighbouring countries though both these terrorist groups could attempt to strike in non-conflict areas.

The committee monitors the activities of major militant groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban and various factions of the militant Islamic State (IS) group, which is also known as Daesh. The report covered the activities of terrorist groups in different parts of the world, but majorly included Taliban-run Afghanistan, which has become a ‘safe haven’ for Al Qaeda.Al Qaeda’s traditional strongholds in Afghanistan have been in the south and east of the war-ravaged country, but recently it appears to be expanding its footprint to the west to the Farah and Herat provinces and possibly to the north, the Dawn reported.

“The situation in Afghanistan remains complex, the terrorist groups based in Afghanistan view the Taliban’s military success as a motivating factor for propaganda in neighbouring countries and other parts of the world,” the report stated.

The terror outfit is enjoying a comfortable stay in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime and some of its senior cadres are providing advisory services to the de facto government there.

“Al Qaeda leadership reportedly plays an advisory role with the Taliban, and the groups remain close,” the report stated.

Al Qaeda and IS pose varying levels of threats to international peace. IS-Khorasan, the group’s Afghanistan-based chapter, is seen as a bigger threat in the short and medium term, while Al Qaeda is a danger over the long term, the Dawn reported.

Sanaullah Ghafari alias Shahab al-Muhajir, an Afghan national, has been leading the IS-K chapter since June 2020. However, IS core has set up a separate structure called Al-Siddiq office under Sheikh Tamim al-Kurdi alias Abu Ahmed al-Madani for pursuing the group’s regional agenda.

The report said that Afghanistan is a base for expansion for IS, which is also trying to recruit fighters from other terrorist groups besides luring disaffected Taliban fighters and dissatisfied local ethnic minorities. The group, moreover, attracts fighters by offering higher wages than other militant groups operating there.

IS-K has increased its presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan. The group that initially started by recruiting members of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Afghan Taliban now has in its ranks fighters from Central Asia, who have increased activities in the north, which borders Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the report further noted.

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with a strength of 3,000 to 4,000 fighters, is now more cohesive and presents a greater threat to the region, the report added.

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