New York Times
December 21, 2007
By Stephen Farrell
BAGHDAD — Arabic-language Web sites have begun publishing invitations purportedly issued by Al Qaeda for questions to be submitted to an “open interview” with Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The Web sites have begun carrying the distinctive notices, posted on a green background beneath a gold-framed portrait of the white-turbaned Mr. Zawahri and logos of Al Qaeda’s media outlets, As Sahab (The Clouds) and Al Fajr (The Dawn).
The notice invites individuals, institutions or news organizations to submit their questions to Mr. Zawahri, an Egyptian-born physician who is in hiding and usually communicates only by video and audio messages released through selected Islamist Web sites.
The notice insists upon “short and precise” questions, saying they will be received from Dec. 16 to Jan. 16. It carries four Web addresses to which they should be sent, including ones bearing the names “Paradise,” “Faithfulness” and “Boraq,” the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s horse.
However, in keeping with the sophistication of Al Qaeda’s previous media operations, the sites and forums demand user names and passwords from visitors.
The move is thought to be unprecedented by a senior Qaeda figure, but the chief executive of IntelCenter, an intelligence organization that monitors terrorist groups, said last night it had no doubt the notice is genuine.