DUBAI (AFP) – Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al-Qaeda number two, has branded US President George W. Bush a liar who had “failed in his war against Al-Qaeda” and launched a scathing attack on Western targets including the pope and the United Nations.
In an 18-minute video posted on the Internet on Friday, Zawahiri called Bush an “executioner, responsible for the spilling of Muslim blood”, and said he had failed in his war against the terror organisation headed by Osama bin Laden.
Zawahiri begged Muslims to support the mujahedeen in Iraq and Afghanistan by all possible means because these countries were what he called the battlefield of the contemporary Crusade.
“The Islamic nation must realise that Afghanistan and Iraq are the field of battle in the confrontation against the contemporary Crusade,” he said. “The nation is therefore bound to support the mujahedeen in these two countries using all means at its disposal.”
He hit out at “defeatist” Arab governments and Muslim preachers, and called for rejection of all resolutions recognizing the “Zionist entity”.
On Thursday, Islamist websites on the Internet had said there would be a new video message posted by Zawahiri entitled “Bush, the pope, Darfur and the Crusades”.
Zawahiri branded Pope Benedict XVI an “impostor for his attitude to Islam and the Arab world.”
He was referring to the pope’s September 12 speech in Germany in which, critics say, the head of the Roman Catholic Church seemed to link Islam and violence.
Benedict quoted a medieval Christian emperor who equated Islam with violence, remarks that sparked outrage across the Muslim world.
Also in the video message, the righthand man to Bin Laden called for a holy war in Sudan’s Darfur region against the “crusaders… of the UN”. Zawahiri called on “Muslims to join a jihad in Darfur against the forces of the crusaders related to the United Nations”.
The United States has been leading international efforts to force Sudan to accept the deployment of a 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping force to halt ethnic violence in its western Darfur region.
At least 200,000 people have died and some 2.5 million others have fled their homes because of the unrest which began in early 2003 when African rebels launched a revolt to gain more autonomy from the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. Some sources put the death toll much higher.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution last month mandating deployment of the peacekeepers to replace an underfunded and ineffective African Union force in Darfur, but Sudan has rejected the demand.
Addressing Muslims directly, Zawahiri said: “The (Islamic) nation must admit the helplessness of the governments which usurp power in Muslim countries… These governments recognise the legitimacy of the United Nations, and this constrains them to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Israel.”
He urged Muslims to “throw anathema at all resolutions and conventions of the surrender, beginning with the resolution on the partition of Palestine, including Camp David and Olso all the way up to Resolution 1701. All these resolutions recognise the legitimacy of the Zionist entity and incriminate jihad against this entity.”
In a previous video posted on the Internet to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Zawahiri warned that the Gulf and Israel would be Al-Qaeda’s next targets.
“You should worry about your presence in two areas,” he said in the message addressed to Western powers. “The first is the Gulf, from where you will be expelled, God willing, after your defeat in Iraq, and your economic ruin will be achieved.
“And the second is Israel, because the jihadi reinforcements are getting closer, with God’s help and power, and your defeat there will put an end to the superiority of the Zionists and Crusaders.”
In his latest video, Zawahiri called on Muslims to “wage a popular jihadist war against the Crusader campaign” because “that is what the enemy fears the most”.
The Egyptian-born Zawahiri is regarded as the ideological powerhouse behind the terror group and carries a 25-million-dollar US bounty for information leading to his arrest or death.
Zawahiri, who trained as a surgeon, is regarded as the brains behind bin Laden, and with the Al-Qaeda chief now staying out of the public eye, he has become its most senior spokesman.
The FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists places the 55-year-old in second place behind bin Laden and says he is the Saudi’s personal doctor.