The leader of Al-Qaeda has called on jihadists to kidnap Westerners in a chilling warning to the ‘enemies of Islam’. In an audio interview Ayman al-Zawahiri urged militants to take Western hostages and exchange them for jailed jihadists ‘until they liberate the last Muslim male prisoner and last Muslim female prisoner in the prisons of the Crusaders, apostates, and enemies of Islam’.
He added that kidnapping was a ‘powerful weapon in the fight against the enemy’.
Al-Zawahiri, an eye surgeon, was named as the leader of Al-Qaeda in June 2011, a few weeks after Osama Bin Laden’s death.
He is believed to be seeking refuge in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that is the Taliban’s base.
Al-Zawahiri, an eye surgeon who helped found the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad, was named as the new leader of Al-Qaeda in June 2011, a few weeks after Osama Bin Laden’s death.
Zawahiri was already the group’s chief ideologue and was believed by some experts to have been the ‘operational brains’ behind the 9/11 attacks in the US.
Zawahiri was number two – behind only Bin Laden – in the 22 ‘most wanted terrorists’ list announced by the US government in 2001 and continues to have a $25m (£16m) bounty on his head.
One of his wives and two of their children were killed in a US air strike in late 2001.
The terror chief’s chilling warning came after two Middle Eastern men tried to grab a serviceman, aged in his 20s, while he was out jogging near RAF Marham in Norfolk last Thursday.
The main suspect, who grabbed the serviceman while he was out jogging, and attempted to pull him into a dark coloured people carrier, is thought to have suffered an injury during the incident after being challenged by the victim.
They were involved in a scuffle during which the victim head-butted his attacker before punching him, causing the suspect to fall to the floor.
It was at this point the second suspect, who was armed with a knife, went to the aid of his accomplice allowing the victim to run away and get help.
Police continued to carry out house to house enquiries at Marham over the weekend and review CCTV.