CAIRO—Al-Qaida’s deputy leader praised the recently slain leaders of the group’s offshoot in Iraq in a new audio recording broadcast Thursday by Al-Jazeera television network.
The brief message attributed to Ayman al-Zawahri is his first since December.
The top two al-Qaida leaders in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed by U.S. and Iraqi forces in April in an operation that both countries described as a major blow to the group.
But attacks blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq this month—including a series of bombings and shootings that killed 119 people in a single day—raised questions about the impact of the two leaders’ slaying.
Two new leaders were soon named to replace them, and one of them warned Iraqi leaders of “long gloomy nights and dark days soaked with blood.”
The organization has proven resilient and able to change tactics in the past, most notably after its founder, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed nearly four years ago in a U.S. airstrike.
In his brief eulogy, Al-Zawahri likened the slain leaders to al-Zarqawi and credited them with “reviving jihad,” or holy war, in Iraq.
Al-Zawahri, like Osama bin Laden, is suspected of using Pakistan’s tribal badlands as a hide-out.