Wed, Dec 01, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Al-Qaeda lieutenant vows to soldier on

MORE THREATS One of the terrorist network's key figures said the battle against the US would continue, and warned Muslim countries against giving up holy war

AFP , DOHA

Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri warned in his second video appearance in a year on Monday that his Al-Qaeda terror network would go on with its fight against the US.

And he told Arab and Muslim nations that they could face the same fate as Saddam Hussein's Iraq if they renounced holy war, taking to task in particular the governments in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and his home country Egypt.

"I have a final piece of advice for America ... you must choose between two ways of behaving towards Muslims: either you deal with them on the basis of respect and mutual interest or you treat them as easy prey," he said in an extract of the video shown by Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera.

"But you must know that we are a nation of patience and perseverance ... We will persevere with our fight against you until the end of time," said the No. 2 of the Al-Qaeda terror network.

The tape was apparently recorded before the November US election won by President George W. Bush over his Democrat challenger John Kerry, as Zawahiri told Americans to "elect who you like -- Bush, Kerry or the devil himself."

"The two candidates are in competition to satisfy Israel," he said, also highlighting the continuation of the "crime against Palestine for 87 years" an apparent reference to the Balfour Declaration when Britain publicly favoured making Palestine a homeland for Jews.

But in the extracts shown by Al-Jazeera, Zawahiri said: "The results of the election don't concern us. What matters to us is the way the United States behaves towards Muslims."

"What matters to us is to rid our countries of the aggressors, to confront those who attack us, who violate what we hold sacred, or steal our riches," he said.

He said the fall of Baghdad in April last year after the US-led war could be repeated in other nations "which renounced holy war and helped in the invasion of Iraq."

The last time Zawahiri was seen was in a video shown on Al-Jazeera just two days before the third anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which he forecast a US defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Washington believes Zawahiri, who faces a death sentence in Egypt and like bin Laden has a US$25 million bounty on his head, is the main strategist and key ideologist in the Al-Qaeda hierarchy.

In an audiotape message aired on Oct. 1, also on the Doha-based Al-Jazeera, Zawahiri called on young Muslims to resist the "crusader campaign" and threatened the interests of several Western and Asian countries.

In Monday's tape, Zawahiri lashed out at the authorities in bin Laden's birthplace Saudi Arabia for having "introduced the crusaders [and] for allowing US planes to bombard Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan from its air bases," according to Al-Jazeera.

He also denounced the absence of an independent judiciary and a representative political system in Saudi Arabia, a strictly conservative Muslim kingdom.

Turning to Egypt, he criticized the human rights situation and the way the government regards the "Palestinian resistance," while Pakistan came under fire for "recognizing Israel" and helping Americans "kill Muslims in Afghanistan and Waziristan," on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Zawahiri has surfaced occasionally in taped audio or video messages calling for more strikes on the US.

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