CAIRO, (AP) – The Sudanese president’s problems with the West are retribution for his expulsion of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden more then ten years ago, al-Qaeda’s No. 2 said in a message issued Tuesday.
Ayman al-Zawahri said even though President Omar al-Bashir tried to appease Western powers by expelling al-Qaeda from Sudan in 1996, the West was still after him. The Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on March 4 on charges of war crimes in the Darfur region.
“The Bashir regime is reaping what it sowed. For many long years, it continued to back down and backtrack in front of American Crusader pressure,” al-Zawahri said according to a transcript provided by the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors extremist Web sites.
“It expelled the mujahideen, who had taken refuge in the Sudan, foremost among them Sheik Osama bin Laden,” he added in the message posted on militant Web sites.
Al-Zawahri said that no matter how much the regime “continued to pant for the American approval” it was never enough and had culminated in the international demand for al-Bashir’s arrest.
Bin Laden and al-Qaeda loyalists were given haven in Sudan from 1991-1996 until al-Bashir expelled them under U.S. pressure.
Al-Zawahri contrasted Sudan’s behavior back then with Afghanistan’s after 9/11, when the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden despite U.S. demands.
The Egyptian-born al-Zawahri also addressed the Sudanese people, urging them to prepare for guerrilla war and the imminent invasion of the U.S. and its allies.
“You are being targeted so Islam can be eliminated from the Sudan,” he said. “This is the fact which you must comprehend. And in order for Islam to be eliminated from the Sudan, a justification must be found for Western military intervention,” he added, describing Darfur as that justification.
The only way for al-Bashir’s regime to save itself is for it to abandon its “smooth-talking” and engage in jihad against the West.
Al-Bashir came to power in Sudan in 1989 together with Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Turabi. Before a falling out, the two in the 1990s turned the country into a headquarters for Islamist movements from around the world, including al-Qaida.
The ICC charged al-Bashir on March 4 of leading a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. His government has been accused of unleashing Arab militiamen against Darfur civilians in a drive to put down a revolt by ethnic Africans in the region.
Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes in the conflict since 2003, according to the U.N.