CAIRO, (AP) – Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 criticized President Barack Obama for not mentioning Gaza in his inauguration speech, and urged Muslims around the world to target U.S. interests to avenge American backing of Israel’s offensive against Hamas.
In a new audio recording posted Tuesday on the Internet, Ayman al-Zawahri also called on Muslims to continue fighting in the Gaza Strip, where a two-week truce remains fragile.
While Obama later voiced concerns about the killings of civilians, “in his inauguration speech, he gave no mention to what happened in Gaza,” al-Zawahri said.
“As for Obama, he has expressed his worries over the killing of civilians in Gaza. Worried? We really appreciate your worries Mr. Obama,” he said. “We have learned about your worries, as well as about thousands of the missiles and white phosphorus,” al-Zawahri added in a reference to charges that Israeli forces used phosphorous shells in a way that burned civilians in Gaza.
The recording was the second al-Zawahri has posted this year about the three-week offensive that began on Dec. 27. The terror network’s chief Osama bin Laden also issued an audio message on Gaza in January, urging Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel.
“The path to fighting the occupation is open to all Muslims,” al-Zawahri said in the recording accompanied by video and still images from the Gaza offensive. “Bring weapons into Gaza. … Punish everyone who stands against Gaza and the rest of the Muslim world.”
Al-Qaeda holds little influence among Palestinians but the network’s Gaza-related postings are likely aimed at harnessing Muslim anger about the offensive and channeling it at the new U.S. administration.
The authenticity of the 17-minute recording could not be independently confirmed but it was posted on an Islamist militant Web site known as a clearing house for al-Qaeda messages.
The recording opened with video scenes of Gaza, showing buildings exploding and wounded crowding into hospitals. Then it settled into a montage of still photographs showing the white-turbaned al-Zawahri, dead Palestinian children, and photographs of Egyptian and Saudi leaders, as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas rival.
Al-Zawahri, who is Egyptian, also lashed out at Arab rulers. He singled out Egypt for refusing to open its border with Gaza and preventing humanitarian access to the strip.
“Anybody who imposes a siege on Gaza is an enemy,” he said.
He urged Muslims to not just protest, but to attack U.S. and Israeli targets.
“The Israeli and American interests are spread everywhere,” he said. “If it (attack) doesn’t work in one place, it’s possible in other places. And if the enemy fortified some of its interests, many others remain without cover and under threat.”