Sympathizers submitted hundreds of questions to al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri's "on-line interview" before a recent deadline. Among them: Why hasn't al-Qaida attacked the U.S. again, why isn't it attacking the Israelis and when will it be more active in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria? So far, there have been no answers. Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, announced in December that al-Zawahri would take questions from the public posted on Islamic militant Web sites and would respond "as soon as possible." More than 900 entries - many with multiple questions - were posted on the main Islamist Web site until the cutoff date of Jan. 16. After the deadline, the questions disappeared from that site and no answers have yet appeared. One thing is clear from the questions: Self-proclaimed al-Qaida supporters are as much in the dark about the terror network's operations and intentions as Western analysts and intelligence agencies.
Some of those posting questions sound worried: Does al-Qaida have a long-term strategy? One, allegedly a former Arab al-Qaida fighter in Iraq, complained about Iraqi fighters discriminating against non-Iraqi mujahedeen. Others wanted advice: Should followers be focusing their jihad, or holy war, against Arab regimes, or against Americans? Like many in the West, the questioners appear uncertain whether al-Qaida's central leadership directly controls the multiple, small militant groups around the Mideast that work in its name, or whether those groups operate on their own. Journalists also were invited to send questions and a few of the entries are labeled with the names of European and Asian newspapers. Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian security expert in Cairo, also suggested some questions were probably submitted by intelligence agents looking for clues to al-Qaida's thinking, but there was no way to verify that.
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