According to a new report from the Arabic-language website Misr al-Gidida (New Egypt), during Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi’s recent visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, he secretly met with Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, and promised to smuggle the Egyptian-born jihadi back home. The Arabic report cites a Pakistani source saying that the meeting was clandestinely arranged, away from the delegation accompanying Morsi, and “facilitated by elements of Pakistani intelligence [ISI] and influential members of the international organization, the Muslim brotherhood” [all quotes translated from Arabic by author].
Morsi himself is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; Zawahiri is a former member who grew impatient with the Brotherhood’s tactics of non-violent patience and perseverance, eventually quitting the organization and joining the jihad, becoming its current leader. (See “Ayman Zawahiri and Egypt: A Trip through Time” for an expose on Zawahiri and his decades-long connections to Egypt, the Salafis, and the Muslim Brotherhood.)
The Pakistani source adds that “the meeting lasted 45 minutes, during which Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi promised to make preparations for Ayman Zawahiri to return soon to Egypt, indicating that some Muslim Brotherhood members would handle the operation, by first smuggling the al-Qaeda leader to a Gulf nation, likely Qatar, and then easily transferring him to Egypt—on condition that Zawahiri disappear lest he embarrass Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood with its American ally, whose security and intelligence agencies consider Zawahiri most wanted.”
Although this report cannot be independently verified, any number of indicators support its veracity. Among other things, the ever-vocal Salafi faction of Egypt, which all but venerates al-Qaeda, have been incessantly calling for Egypt’s native son Zawahiri—the “hero” who gave America a bloody nose via the strikes of 9/11—to return. Aboud al-Zomor, for instance, the Egyptian jihadi who was implicated for the assassination of Sadat but released after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak and who is now a leading member of the new Egyptian parliament—has called for the return of Zawahiri to Egypt, “with his head held high and in safety.”
Muslim Brotherhood leader President Morsi himself—who was also imprisoned and released during the “Arab Spring”—has already released any number of other jihadis, including some who were on death row in Egypt for the deaths and terrorism they committed. He is also trying to release the “Blind Sheikh”—an early mentor turned competitor of Zawahiri—from the U.S where he is currently serving a life sentence for his connection to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
The report further suggests that Zawahiri will likely disappear in the increasingly lawless Sinai, where al-Qaeda is already active under the leadership of Zawahiri’s brother, Muhammad Zawahiri—another jihadi who was imprisoned under Mubarak only to be released under Morsi. Interestingly, when asked in a recent interview with CNN if he is in touch with his al-Qaeda leader brother, Muhammad only smiled and responded, “of course not.” In retrospect, it appears the smile was based on the sheer naivety of the question.