Ayman al-Zawahri, the emir of al-Qaeda since 2011, has not spoken publicly since September. This is his longest absence from the public stage since the fall of Kabul in 2001. It is likely he is biding his time for a special purpose.
The 63-year old Egyptian has been a jihadist fighter and plotter since 1981 when he was part of the conspiracy that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He has been a brutally tortured prisoner, a fugitive for decades wanted by dozens of intelligence services and a prolific writer of books about the global jihad. Zawahri has been a constant on al-Qaeda's al-Sahab propaganda media arm for a dozen years, through scores of taped messages.