Al-Qaeda Leader: Kidnap Westerners to Trade for Jihadi Prisoners

This handhout picture of a video grab provided by the SITE Intelligence Group on February 12, 2012 shows Al-Qaeda's chief Ayman al-Zawahiri at an undisclosed location making an announcment in a video-relayed audio message posted on jihadist forums. AFP PHOTO/SITE INTELLIGENCE GROUP-

The latest online audio recording from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri encourages jihadis to take Westerners hostage so they can be used in prisoner exchanges.

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, Zawahiri told his followers to kidnap Westerners “until they liberate the last Muslim male prisoner and last Muslim female prisoner in the prisons of the Crusaders, apostates, and enemies of Islam.”

In fact, according to SITE, Zawahiri has repeated this call for hostages more than once lately. SITE also mentions that Zawahiri’s messages are part of an al-Qaeda audio series charmingly titled, “Take Up the Weapon of the Martyr.”

Reuters notes that it has not yet been able to verify the authenticity of the recording.

“Zawahiri is believed to be seeking refuge in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that is the Taliban’s base,” according to the Reuters report.

The UK Daily Mail notes that jihadis are evidently trying to follow Zawahiri’s advice:

The terror chief’s chilling warning came after two Middle Eastern men tried to grab a serviceman, aged in his 20s, while he was out jogging near RAF Marham in Norfolk last Thursday.  

The main suspect, who grabbed the serviceman while he was out jogging, and attempted to pull him into a dark coloured people carrier, is thought to have suffered an injury during the incident after being challenged by the victim.

They were involved in a scuffle during which the victim head-butted his attacker before punching him, causing the suspect to fall to the floor.

It was at this point the second suspect, who was armed with a knife, went to the aid of his accomplice allowing the victim to run away and get help.

Morocco World News reports that jihadis have also been urged to attack the Rio Olympics on social media, particularly “British, American, French, and Israeli attacks.” It’s not clear if these instructions are originating from al-Qaeda, ISIS, or some other group, although recent arrests tied to terrorism plots in Brazil were linked to ISIS.