Image: Al-Zawahri
Ho  /  Reuters file
Ayman al-Zawahri's audiotape released Friday may have been recorded years ago, officials said.
updated 1/20/2006 8:51:47 PM ET 2006-01-21T01:51:47

An audiotape from al-Qaida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, was posted Friday on an Islamic Web site in which he read a poem praising “martyrs of holy war” in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

The CIA conducted a voice analysis and determined the speaker was indeed al-Zawahri, NBC News reported Friday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

The tape made no mention of a Jan. 13 U.S. airstrike in Pakistan that was targeting al-Zawahri and killed four al-Qaida leaders.

Officials at two U.S. counterterror agencies said the recording does not appear to have been made recently and may even date back years. They described the recording as a poetry reading praising martyrs of wars in Afghanistan, but it was not immediately clear whether that referred to the Northern Alliance action against the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or even to the Afghanistan war with the Soviets in the 1980s.

Al-Zawahri was not believed to have been among those killed in the Jan. 13 strike. If the tape is new and authentic, it would be al-Zawahri’s first statement since the attack.

Posting follows release of bin Laden tape
The 17-minute tape was posted on an Islamic militant Web forum a day after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden released his first audiotape in more than a year, threatening new attacks in the United States and offering Americans a conditional truce.

The al-Zawahri tape made no statement, and instead the voice on it was heard reading a long poem honoring “martyrs of jihad,” or holy war.

He dedicated the poem to “all Muslim brothers everywhere, to the mujahedeen (holy warrior) brothers in Islam’s fortified borderlines against the Zionist-Crusader campaign in Palestine and Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya.”

The tape is “very similar” to one released in late 2001, after al-Zawahri’s wife and daughters were killed in a U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, MSNBC translator Alfred Arian said. A senior counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed, according to NBC News.

He said the poem had reminded him of colleagues who died in the jihadist cause, mentioning several by name — but not including any of the figures believed killed in the Pakistan strike.

The Web forum where the tape was posted and other similar ones often carry statements from al-Qaida and other militant groups, but participants also often post old recordings.

The Jan. 13 airstrike hit a building in the Pakistani village of Damadola, where Pakistani authorities suspect al-Qaida operatives were gathered to plan attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirteen villagers were killed. Officials believe at least four foreign militants also may have died, including a son-in-law of al-Zawahri.

NBC News contributed to this report.


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