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New Zawahiri tape suggests Al Qaeda PR shift

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The latest public message released by No. 2 Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may signal a change in public-relations moves by the terrorist group in the face of growing doubt about its tactics among Muslim supporters, experts say.

Reuters reports that in an audiotape released Wednesday, Mr. Zawahiri responded to unusually pointed questions submitted earlier by users of Al Qaeda-linked online forums. The fact that Zawahiri answered the forum posts, which challenged Al Qaeda's policies on attacks against innocents, the United Nations, and Iran, suggests that dissent among its supporters may be forcing Al Qaeda to change tactics, according to an anonymous US counterintelligence official.

The US official, interpreting the questions and the answers given by Ayman al-Zawahiri, said: "They've been taken to the online woodshed on a number of things."
"Some of the questioners are raising tough issues, such as the legitimacy of murdering innocent civilians and the effectiveness of Al Qaeda's overall strategy," the US official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. "Since Al Qaeda chose what questions to address, it suggests Al Qaeda's tactics have raised serious concerns – even among potential sympathizers – and that the group's leadership recognizes that it has some serious explaining to do," he said.

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