Al Qaeda's No. 2 Gets an Early Start in 2007

Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al Zawahri, is starting off the new year with a statement entitled, "Rise Up to Bring Victory to Your Brothers in Somalia," according to an extremist Website.

Produced by al Sahab, the production wing of al Qaeda, the advertised statement would mark Zawahri's first in 2007, after appearing in 12 video releases in 2006, according to IntelCenter, a private contractor providing counterterrorism support work to the intelligence community.   The statement, expected shortly, is an apparent call for Muslims to fight in Somalia where tensions are high between the government and Islamic militants.

In his last statement of 2006, released on Dec. 20, Zawahri took credit for the Democrats' victory in the U.S. midterm elections.  "The first is that you aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost," Zawahri said, according to a full transcript obtained by ABC News.


Meanwhile, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, told Reuters in an e-mail that he has not seen al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, since U.S.-backed forces drove the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001. 

"No, I have neither seen him, nor have I made any effort to do so, but I pray for his health and safety," Omar wrote to Reuters.

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Bin Laden has been far less prolific than his right-hand man Zawahri, only releasing five audio statements in 2006, according to IntelCenter.  He last appeared in a video release in late 2004.

Rumors surfaced in late September that bin Laden had succumbed to typhoid fever, but the top Taliban military commander, Mullah Dadullah Akhund, told an ABC News producer bin Laden was safe and that there was no truth to the rumors.

As for Zawahri, Pakistani intelligence sources told ABC News in August that they had "very good intelligence on the whereabouts of Ayman al Zawahri" and were "reasonably confident" that they would be able to catch him in the next few months. 

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