Zawahri tells Muslims to join Mideast conflict

Ayman al-Zawahri, considered Al-Qaida's No. 2, weighed in on the conflict in Israel and Lebanon in a message aired Thursday.
Ayman al-Zawahri, considered Al-Qaida's No. 2, weighed in on the conflict in Israel and Lebanon in a message aired Thursday.Al-Jazeera TV
/ Source: The Associated Press

Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."

In a taped message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri said the terrorist organization would not stand idly by while "these (Israeli) shells burn our brothers.

"All the world is a battlefield open in front of us," said the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri, second-in-command to Osama bin Laden.

"The war with Israel does not depend on cease-fires ... . It is a Jihad for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahri said. "We will attack everywhere." Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims until they were driven from the country at the turn of the 16th century.

Al-Zawahri declared that Arab regimes were complicit in Israeli fighting against Hezbollah and the Palestinians.

"My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit...and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies...make yourselves martyrs."

Al-Zawahri wore a gray robe and white turban. A picture of the burning World Trade Center was on the wall behind him along with photos of two other militants. One appeared to be a bearded Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks. The other was Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, a former top lieutenant of bin Laden who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in November 2001.

Al-Qaida broadcasts are thought to contain coded messages to members. Three of images on the screen - that of al-Zawahri and the pictures of al-Masri and what was believed to be Atta - were Egyptian.

Zawahri: 'We cannot just watch'
The Arab satellite broadcaster did not transmit the entire tape, using instead selected quotes interspersed with commentary from an anchor.

"The shells and rockets ripping apart Muslim bodies in Gaza and Lebanon are not only Israeli (weapons), but are supplied by all the countries of the crusader coalition. Therefore, every participant in the crime will pay the price," al-Zawahri said.

The message was al-Zawahri's tenth this year. Bin Laden has issued five messages in a particularly active year of messages from the top al-Qaida leadership.

"We cannot just watch these shells as they burn our brothers in Gaza and Lebanon and stand by idly, humiliated," al-Zawahri said.

Al-Zawahri last appeared in a video posted on an Islamic Web site on the one-year anniversary of the train bombings in London. In the July 7 tape, he said two of the four suicide bombers in London spent time in an al-Qaida training camp, preparing themselves for a suicide mission.

Top al-Qaida leaders paid tribute in June to the slain leader of their Iraq network, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in separate video recordings. Many of their messages this year have dealt with current events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

Bin Laden tape expected
Another new audio or video message from bin Laden was also expected in the coming days and was planned to deal with Gaza and Lebanon, according to said IntelCenter, a U.S.-based independent group that provides counterterrorism information to the U.S. government and media.

Al-Qaida's media production wing, Al-Sahab, announced the al-Zawahri tape would be ready soon in a message Thursday on and Islamic Web site.

Al-Zawahri said Muslims everywhere must rise up to attack "crusaders and Zionists... and support jihad (holy war) everywhere...until American troops are chased from Afghanistan and Iraq, paralyzed and impotent...having paid the price for aggression against Muslims and support for Israel."

Israel began an offensive on Gaza days after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier on June 25. It opened a second front in Lebanon after Hezbollah guerillas abducted two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

Since fighting began between Israel and Hezbollah, at least 424 people have been killed in Lebanon, according to figures compiled from the Health Ministry, military and Hezbollah. Fifty-one Israelis have been killed, including 33 members of the military, according to Israeli authorities.