Al-Qaida's No. 2 said the terror network's branch in Iraq had succeeded in "breaking the back" of the U.S. military with hundreds of suicide bombings, in a video posted Saturday that was the latest in a string of new messages by al-Qaida's leaders.
The video by Ayman al-Zawahri, posted on an Islamic militant Web forum, came within the same week as an audiotape by al-Qaida's top leader Osama bin Laden and a video by the head of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq — a volley of messages by the group's most prominent figures.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian militant believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, also denounced the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as "traitors" and called on Muslims to rise up to "confront them."
He said that U.S. and British forces in Iraq had bogged down in Iraq and "have achieved nothing but loss, disaster and misfortune."
Al-Qaida in Iraq "alone has carried out 800 martyrdom operations (suicide attacks) in 3 years, besides the sacrifices of the other mujahedeen, and this is what has broken the back of American in Iraq," al-Zawahri said.
The video was first obtained by IntelCenter, a U.S. contractor that provides counterterrorism intelligence services to the U.S. government.
U.S. officials analyzing tape
U.S. counterterrorism officials were aware of the video and analyzing it to glean whatever they could from the message, two officials said on condition of anonymity.
One of the officials, who would not be identified in compliance with office policy, said it was part of al-Qaida's ongoing propaganda blitz to demonstrate they remain relevant.
Bin Laden issued an audiotape on Sunday accusing the United States and Europe of supporting a "Zionist" war on Islam in what many analysts saw as an attempt to draw support from moderate Muslims.
Two days later, the head of al-Qaida in Iraq — Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — issued an audiotape in which he showed his face for the first time and denounced Iraq's attempts to form a new government. He called on Sunni Arabs to join the "jihad" or holy war in Iraq.
Al-Zawahri's 16-minute video posted Saturday, entitled "A Message to the People of Pakistan," was mainly dedicated to blasting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, accusing him of undermining his own country to help the United States, Israel and India.
Tape refers to Bush visit to India, Pakistan
There was no date in the video, but al-Zawahri mentioned a "recent" visit in early March by President Bush to India and Pakistan. During the visit, Bush "gave a great push to India's nuclear program while handing out orders and instructions in Pakistan," al-Zawahri said.
"Every soldier and officer in the Pakistani military should know that Musharraf is throwing them into the burner of civil war in return for the bribes he is getting from the United States," al-Zawahri said
"For this reason I call on every soldier and officer in the Pakistani army to disobey the orders of his commanders to kill Muslims in Pakistan or Afghanistan or otherwise he will be confronted by the mujahedeen," he said.
In the video, the gray-bearded al-Zawahri sat indoors, in front of a semi-translucent white curtain with rows of lace embroidery on it. Wearing a black turban and white traditional robes, he motioned often with his right hand, while his left arm remained largely still, as it has in other recent videos.
Al-Zawahri, who last appeared in a video on March 4, has been the most vocal spokesman for al-Qaida. While bin Laden was silent for nearly a year — ending his silence with an audiotape in January — al-Zawahri has frequently released messages, using videos while bin Laden only issued audiotapes. U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe the two are hiding separately.
It was not known what prompted the release of bin Laden's, al-Zawahri's and al-Zarqawi's messages within the space of one week — and to what degree they were coordinated.
Al-Zawahri messages have closely followed bin Laden ones in the past, suggesting a degree of coordination. Al-Zarqawi's tapes, however, have often appeared more closely timed with events in Iraq.