Al-Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri praised insurgents in Iraq – particularly Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - and called on all Muslims to support them in a video posted Thursday on the internet.
Al-Zawahri – an Egyptian who is Osama Bin Laden's deputy in al-Qaeda and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan - said he was making the video to mark the fourth anniversary of the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora, in which U.S. Forces besieged bin Laden and al-Qaeda fighters in mountainous caves of Afghanistan.
The video, first found on the web by the Alexandria, Va.-based firm IntelCenter, which monitors Islamic sites, was titled "Four Years since Tora Bora, from Tora Bora to Iraq, a lecture by Ayman al-Zawahri." It carried the logo of Sahab Production, a video production group, that Al-Zawahri denounced Bush as the "Caesar of Washington" and accused him of lying about progress in the war on terror.
"Bush, son of Bush, eliminating Israel is the duty of every believer," Al-Zawahri said.
"Beggarly clerics ... and every bankrupt propaganda machine is trying to convince the people to bring change by peaceful means, but the Islamic nation knows that its path is jihad (holy war) and the bearing of arms."
"By God, we're supposed to stick to peaceful means while the enemies of Islam engage in every violent, barbaric and base action and Israel is armed to the teeth with every sort of conventional and non-conventional weapon?" he said.
"If we commit to peaceful action, they will demand we adhere to international laws and treaties that mean nothing to them. If we adhere to that, they will ask us to impose constraint on what they call terrorism and war on Israel. Then if we adhere to that, they will demand we recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it," he said.
He pointed to Israeli opposition to the Islamic terror group Hamas' entering Palestinian elections. He did not mention Hamas' victory in the voting, a possible indication the video was made before the January elections.
The video was dated with an Islamic month corresponding to November 2005 - and al-Zawahri mentions an October 23 earthquake that hit Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it appeared to be the first time the 28-minute video has been made public.
It was not clear why the video was not released soon after the date it was allegedly filmed. Al-Zawahri has appeared in at least three videotapes filmed since November, all of them aired on the Al-Jazeera news network. Thursday's video was posted on a Web forum used by Islamic terrorists to issue public statements and videos.
'Enemy has began to falter'
In the footage, al-Zawahri appears sitting, wearing a white turban and a grey robe with a microphone pinned to it. An automatic weapon is leaning against a brown backdrop behind him.
"The Islamic nation must support the heroic mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Iraq, who are fighting on the very front line for the dignity of Islam," Al-Zawahri said, waving his right hand toward the camera.
"And to my brother mujahedeen in Iraq, I say, stay firm. Stay together. Your enemy has begun to falter, so don't stop pursuing him until he flees defeated," he said.
He called on Muslims to support his "beloved brother" Al-Zarqawi, who heads al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"I have lived with him up close, and have seen nothing but good from him," Al-Zawahri said. "I warn all Muslims in Iraq: Anyone who impedes the jihad against the Crusader occupiers is a traitor to God and his prophet ... and a traitor to the rest of the Muslims."
It was not clear if the video was made before or after a November 9 triple suicide bombing
against hotels in the Jordanian capital Amman that killed at least 60 people, mostly Muslims.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, but the civilian deaths brought widespread criticism of al-Zarqawi, even from some Islamic militants. In the wake of the backlash over the Amman bombings, al-Zarqawi joined his group to a wider coalition of Iraqi insurgent groups and has not issued his own statements since January, apparently seeking to lie low.
In Thursday's video, al-Zawahri did not mention the hotel bombings and, since the timing was unknown, it could not be known if the comments aimed to show support for al-Zarqawi amid the criticism.
In the last al-Zawahri video to be aired – on March 4 – he congratulated Hamas on its victory and offered support.
Al-Zawahri appeared in two other videos in January. On January 19, Bin Laden released an audiotape, parts of which were aired on al-Jazeera - the first message from the al-Qaeda leader in more than a year.