CAIRO — Osama bin Laden's deputy said the slain al-Qaida chief "terrified America" when he was alive and would continue to do so in death, according to a eulogy that appeared on militant websites Wednesday.
The message by Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's longtime No. 2 and considered the network's operational head, heaped praise on bin Laden, who was killed in the May 2 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
Al-Zawahri also blasted the United States for burying bin Laden at sea after the raid and urged the people of Pakistan to rise against the country's rulers, describing them as "traitors."
Within days of the bin Laden raid, al-Qaida had issued a statement vowing to keep fighting the United States, a message that was likely designed to convince followers that the organization would remain vigorous and intact even after its founder's demise.
But al-Zawahri's eulogy was the first comment on bin Laden's slaying by his potential successor.
In the 28-minute video, al-Zawahri, who is believed to be operating from somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, appeared in a white Arab robe and turban, a Kalashnikov at his side.
"The man has terrified America when he was alive and is terrifying it even when he is dead, to the extent that they denied him a tomb," al-Zawahri said.
He also said U.S. officials withheld the release of photographs of bin Laden's body, fearing the "Islamic peoples' anger and hate" for America. He claimed bin Laden had "achieved what he wanted to do, which is to incite the Islamic nation to holy war and his message had reached all."
Al-Zawahri, who is Egyptian, is a less charismatic and unifying figure, and he is believed to lack bin Laden's ability to bring together the many nationalities and ethnic groups that make up al-Qaida. His appointment as the next al-Qaida leader could further fracture an organization that is thought to be increasingly decentralized.
The eulogy included five poems of praise for bin Laden, describing him alternately as modest, noble and shrewd commander and "the vanguard of jihad (holy war) against the Communists and then the Crusaders," a reference to bin Laden's campaign in the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s and the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks against the United States.
Al-Zawahri also vented his anger at the Pakistani military leaders and politicians, implying they had a role in bin Laden's death.
"I call on the Pakistani nation to rise up against the mercenary military traitors and the corrupt politicians who turned Pakistan into an American colony, allowing it (America) to kill or capture whoever it wants," al-Zawahri said.
He concluded by saying bin Laden will remain a "source of horror and a nightmare chasing America, Israel and their allies."
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