Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader issued a new videotape Thursday calling on Afghans to rise up against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan in the wake of rioting last month in Kabul.
The video by Ayman al-Zawahri — which would be his sixth this year — was posted on an Islamic Web site known as a clearing house for al-Qaida and other militants’ statements.
“I am calling upon the Muslims in Kabul in particular and in all Afghanistan in general and for the sake of God to stand up in an honest stand in the face of the infidel forces that are invading Muslim lands,” said al-Zawahri, wearing a white turban and sitting in front of a black backdrop with an automatic rifle next to him.
He also calls on “the young men of Islam, in the universities and schools of Kabul, to carry out their duties in defense of their religion, honor, land and country.”
The 3½-minute tape appears to have been made the day after a May 29 accident in which a U.S. military truck crashed into traffic in Kabul, killing up to five people. The incident sparked anti-foreigner riots in Kabul that left about 20 people dead — the deadliest unrest in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
“I direct my speech today to my Muslim brothers in Kabul who lived the bitter events yesterday and saw by their own eyes a new proof of the criminal acts of the American forces against the Afghani people,” al-Zawahri said on the videotape.
Al-Zawahri makes no reference to the death of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad on June 7.
U.S. warns of 'significant fighting' in Afghanistan
The tape came a day after the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan warned that “significant fighting” lies ahead as Taliban fighters resist the coalition push to sweep clear the southern region of the country ahead of a security hand over to NATO-led forces later this summer, military officials said.
Operation Mountain Thrust began in earnest last week with more than 10,000 Afghan, British, Canadian and American troops deploying throughout four southern provinces to crush a resurgent Taliban force in the largest military operation since the former regime’s 2001 ouster.
More than 600 people, mostly militants, have been killed since May amid the deadliest campaign of insurgent-led violence in years. At least 10 coalition soldiers have been killed in combat since mid-May.
Unlike al-Zawahri’s previous messages, which appeared aimed at Americans, the latest video has no English subtitles. He spoke in Arabic, and Web sites carried translations of his message in Pashtun and Farsi, two other languages widely spoken in Afghanistan.
The tape was first reported by IntelCenter, an Alexandria, Va.-based contractor that provides counterterrorism intelligence services to the U.S. government.
In the video, al-Zawahri also refers to alleged desecration of the Quran at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and mentions perceived insults against Muslims in Denmark, France and Italy.
He also refers by name to former President Clinton and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, along with writer Salman Rushdie, who was condemned to death by Iranian clerics in 1988.
The new message is part of a dramatic increase in videos and audiotapes by al-Qaida. Al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden has issued three tapes this year, along with the six from his deputy, the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri.
Bin Laden and al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding in the rugged border zone of Pakistan and Afghanistan.