Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al--Zawahiri has called on Pakistanis to rise up against their government and military in a video posted on the Internet on Friday, US monitors said.
He also said that, unless its demands were met, al-Qaeda would not release an elderly US development expert captured in Pakistan in August last year.
In a 10-minute speech uploaded to jihadist forums, al--Zawahiri said that the Pakistani authorities only represented US interests, according to a statement from SITE Intelligence Group.
Al-Zawahiri, shown standing in front of a green curtain, urged Pakistanis to follow the example of the Arab Spring as the military could not be expected to turn against the US, despite a deadly US strike on Pakistani troops in November last year.
“O our brothers in Pakistan. O our people in Pakistan. This treacherous army and bribe--taking government have plundered your wealth,” he said. “They have ruined your economy and destroyed your world as well as your hereafter. What then are you waiting for?”
“Take a lead from your brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria who are standing up against oppression and oppressors with their bare chests exposed and offering sacrifices so that victory may be ordained for them,” he said.
As for the US hostage, who was snatched after gunmen tricked their way into his Lahore home on Aug. 13 last year, days before he was scheduled to return to the US, al-Zawahiri said: “By the grace of Allah, we, on our part, have captured the American Jew Warren Weinstein.”
“He will not return to his family, by the will of Allah, until our demands are met, which include the release of Aafia Siddiqui, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the family of Sheikh Osama bin Laden and every single person arrested on allegations of links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” he said.
Weinstein was country director for US-based consultancy J.E. Austin Associates.
In December, al-Zawahiri claimed responsibility for his capture and also demanded that Washington end air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
“Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who has been neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the 1970s,” SITE quoted him as saying in a video.
Long al-Qaeda’s No. 2, al-Zawahiri took over the helm of the group after bin Laden was killed in May last year in a US special forces night raid deep into Pakistan.
The video is the latest of a number in which the militant chief has attempted to exploit the Arab uprisings.
Al-Qaeda has been absent from the popular protests that swept the Arab world last year, leading to the ouster of autocratic, secular leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and sparking unrest elsewhere.