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Al-Qaidas deputy chief issues new video praising slain commander in Afghanistan
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    CAIRO, Egypt — Al-Qaida’s deputy leader has issued a new video message praising the terrorist organization’s slain commander in Afghanistan, a U.S. group that monitors militant messages said Wednesday.
    The nine-minute, 59-second tape of Ayman al-Zawahri, titled ‘‘An Elegy to the Martyred Commander Abu Laith al-Libi,’’ and containing English subtitles, was issued by al-Sahab, the group’s media branch, according to the IntelCenter. The video’s authenticity could not be immediately verified.
    Al-Libi is believed to have been killed by a missile from a U.S. Predator drone that struck his safehouse in Pakistan in late January. He was viewed as a top al-Qaida strategist in neighboring Afghanistan.
    Al-Zawahri described al-Libi as a ‘‘knight’’ of al-Qaida’s holy war. He was ‘‘a mountain of Jihad and a lion,’’ al-Zawahri said.
    ‘‘Every time a martyr falls, another martyr grabs the banner from him, and every time a chief goes down in blood, another chief completes the march after him,’’ he said.
    Pakistani intelligence described him as the operational commander of al-Qaida in the border region and one of the militant group’s most high-profile figures after its leader, Osama bin Laden, and al-Zawahri.
    The video was posted on a Web site that usually releases al-Qaida messages. The site also displayed a banner advertising an upcoming ‘‘interview’’ of al-Zawahri by al-Sahab, with a picture of him in a traditional white Arab robe and white turban, seated before a bookshelf. Such advertisements are usually posted up to 72 hours before the message is released.
    Al-Zawahri — seen by many counterterrorism experts to be al-Qaida’s operational chief, rather than bin Laden — is believed to play a large role in directing al-Qaida’s strategy and issues frequent video and audio messages, often laying out the network’s doctrinal line.
    Wednesday’s message was the first purportedly from al-Zawahri this year. He issued 15 in 2007.

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