IMAGE: AL-QAIDA DEPUTY LEADER IN VIDEO
AP
Ayman al-Zawahiri speaks in a video released Friday that included captioning in English.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/29/2006 6:43:36 PM ET 2006-09-29T22:43:36

Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in a video posted on the Internet on Friday that Pope Benedict was a “charlatan” because of his recent remarks on Islam.

“This charlatan accused Islam of being incompatible with rationality while forgetting that his own Christianity is unacceptable to a sensible mind,” the militant leader said.

He also condemned President Bush, calling him a charlatan as well.

“Why don’t you tell them how many million citizens of America and its allies you intend to kill in search of the imaginary victory and in breathless pursuit of the mirage towards which you are driving your people’s sons in order increase your profits?” al-Zawahri said.

The message was titled “Bush, the Pope, Darfur and the Crusades.”

Al-Zawahri said Benedict is reminiscent of Pope Urban II, who in 1095 ordered the First Crusade to establish Christian control in the Holy Land.

Al-Zawahri’s remarks about Benedict were a clear response to the pontiff’s comments earlier this month that sparked outrage across the Muslim world. In that speech, Benedict cited a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”

“If Benedict attacked us, we will respond to his insults with good things. We will call upon him, and all of the Christians to become Muslims who do not recognize the Trinity or the crucifixion,” al-Zawahri said.

Jihad in Darfur urged
Al-Zawahri also urged Muslims to launch a holy war against proposed U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region.

“O Muslim nation, come to defend your lands from crusaders masked as United Nations (troops). Nothing will protect you except popular jihad (holy war),” al-Zawahri said.

An intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. experts view the tape as a typical propaganda message, whose main thrust is a call for more people to join the jihad.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the message was recorded, but al-Zawahri’s reference to the pope indicates the message was produced sometime after Pope Benedict’s controversial comments about Islam on Sept. 12.

The video was the latest to come from al-Zawahri since earlier this month. Al-Qaida released a string of videos for the anniversary of Sept. 11, showing increasingly sophisticated production techniques in a likely effort to demonstrate that it remains a powerful, confident force despite the U.S.-led war on terror.

The nearly 18-minute statement, was produced by al-Qaida’s media arm, as-Sahab. An initial segment shows al-Zawahri in an office-type setting, while in the second part, he is in front of a brown backdrop. The first segment also has English subtitles.

After conducting a technical analysis of the videotape, the CIA concluded “with confidence” that the speaker is in fact Ayman al-Zawahri, said a CIA spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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