Wary of Western intelligence tehnologies, bin Laden's deputy Ayman al Zawahri has not used a telephone or accessed the Internet for four years, according to a report in today's Asharq al Awsat, a London-based Arabic-language daily.
The paper cites a statement it received from the media-savvy Egyptian militant Mohammed Khalil al Hakayma, saying that for security reasons al Qaeda's No. 2 man has not touched a phone or surfed the Web since 2003. Al Hakayma is listed as wanted on the U.S. Rewards for Justice program with a reward of up to $1 million on his head. The newspaper did not disclose how it received Hakayma's statement.
Last year, Hakayma claimed that the Egyptian Islamist group al Gamaa al Islamiya had joined al Qaeda. The group, which has publicly renounced violence as part of a deal with the Egyptian government, however, issued a strong denial. Al Hakayma later appeared in a jihadi video criticizing the group and called on its members to join al Qaeda as he says he has.
Hani El Sebai, a London-based Islamist activist, told the paper that the phone is "the mujaheddin's worst enemy." He said al Zawahri only communicates with the outside world via al Sahab Media, al Qaeda's production group, and a handful of Egyptian jihad members.
In Al Hakayma's statement to the paper, the Egyptian also denied any connection between al Qaeda and an Egyptian Islamist lawyer arrested a few days ago in Egypt on charges he was connected to the terrorist group and receiving directions from al Zawahri to carry out attacks in the country. Mamdouh Ismail has denied all charges.
If al Qaeda decides to operate, Al Hakayma wrote, it won't choose to cooperate with any known Islamist like the arrested lawyer.