An audiotape attributed to Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant called on Muslims to stage terrorist strikes against Jews, US citizens and US allies.
The Arab satellite station al-Jazeera on Wednesday showed a still photograph of Ayman al-Zawahri wearing a white turban while a forceful speaker urged Muslims to draw inspiration from the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Consider your 19 brothers who attacked America in Washington and New York with their planes as an example," said the voice, speaking the classical Arabic typical of al-Qaeda statements and making the accent difficult to place. Children's voices could be heard in the background.
In the tape, the speaker referred to protests ahead of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the early days of the war, a possible hint of when the recording was made.
"The protests, demonstrations and conferences won't work. Nothing will help you except carrying weapons and harming your enemies -- Americans and Jews," the voice said.
"Oh Muslims, take your decision against the embassies of America, England, Australia and Norway, their interests, their companies and their employees," the speaker said. "Turn the earth under their feet into fire."
Britain was the US' main partner in the war on Iraq, and Australia contributed troops. Norway did not take part in Iraq but sent special forces and other support to US-led fighting in Afghanistan that overthrew the Taliban and dislodged al-Qaeda.
The speaker also lashed out at Arab leaders for offering "airports and the facilities" to allied troops, an apparent reference to the US-led war on Iraq.
"Here is Saudi Arabia, where planes are launched from their airports, from its lands. Here is Kuwait, where the heavy armies march from its lands. Here is Qatar, where the command of the campaign is based. Here is Bahrain, the command of the [US Navy] Fifth Fleet remains inside it. Here is Egypt, the marine ships pass through its canal. Here is Yemen, the crusader ships are provided with fuel. Here is Jordan, where the crusader troops are present, and the batteries of the Patriot missiles are erected their to protect Israel."
Mohammed Salah, a Cairo-based journalist who has covered al-Qaeda and other militant groups for more than a decade for the Arab daily Al-Hayat, said he believed the voice was al-Zawahri's.
He said it appeared the tape was recorded during the war on Iraq, noting there was no reference to the fall of Baghdad, an event al-Zawahri would have been likely to mention. Al-Zawahri also did not mention recent terror attacks on Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Al-Jazeera aired 3 1/2 minutes of the tape and said that was all it would broadcast.
In Washington, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity said it was plausible that the speaker was al-Zawahri but a thorough analysis was necessary to be certain.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized al-Jazeera, based in the Gulf state of Qatar, for playing excerpts of the tape.