Al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, has attacked Palestinian and other Arab leaders, accusing them of betraying Islam and collaborating with the United States and Israel, according to an Internet statement published in his name Monday.
The statement, posted Monday, congratulates Islamic holy warriors around the world on the feast of al-Adha and on "the defeat of the Americans and their crusader allies in Afghanistan and Iraq."
The message could not be authenticated as the word of al-Zawahri, but it appeared on two Islamic Web sites known for publishing militant material.
The most communicative of al-Qaida's leaders, al-Zawahri appeared to be trying to encourage militants, those fighting and those in prison, but his four and a half pages of text offered nothing in the way of new ideas or policies.
Referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a senior member of his Fatah party, al-Zawahri asks: "How is it possible for Mahmoud Abbas to be a brother of ours, or for Mohammed Dahlan to be a brother of ours, when they have grown fat on the bribes of the Jews and gifts of the Americans?"
A senior aide to Abbas, Saeb Erekat, blasted the statement as "absolutely unacceptable," and predicted it would not influence Palestinians.
Al-Zawahri, who issued 14 taped statements last year, has often told the Palestinians what they should be doing, but is not known to have an impact. The leading Palestinian militant group Hamas has distanced itself from al-Qaida, saying its struggle is against Israel, not the West at large.
It was not clear when the statement was written. It only gives the date "December 2006" and its Islamic calendar equivalent.
The statement did not mention events of the past few days that have made headlines around the Arab world, such as the execution of Saddam Hussein on Saturday and the Ethiopian forces' entry into the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
In fact, the statement appears to be ignorant of the defeat of the Islamic militia, the Union of Islamic Courts, which was driven out of Mogadishu by the Ethiopians. "I also congratulate my Muslim brothers in Somalia and encourage them to be firm in defense of the honor of Islam," al-Zawahri says.
Al-Zawahri accuses the Egyptian, Saudi Arabian and Yemeni governments of serving the interests of the United States, adding that Washington "bombs the Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," and orders Arab leaders to pump their oil wells dry and sell crude petroleum "at the cheapest of rates to consume the nation's treasure."
Al-Zawahri tosses out insults to a bevy of leaders, making no effort to substantiate his allegations. He calls Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a "bribe-taker," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a "traitor," Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh an "agent of America," and he accuses the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman of being a "fanatical Zionist."
He praises the al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Saudia Arabia, which he describes as "the American state of al Saud," and attacks the initiative of Saudi King Abdullah, which offered Israel full diplomatic relations in return for full withdrawal from Arab lands.
Shortly before the plan was adopted by the Arab Summit in Beirut in 2002, Friedman wrote that he had discussed the idea with the then Crown Prince Abdullah.
Al-Zawahri says the plan, "which the fanatical Zionist Thomas Friedman dictated to (Abdullah)," orders Saudi citizens to "recognize Israel and abandon Palestine."
No mention of bin Laden
He encourages Muslim women to continue wearing headscarves despite the "fierce crusade" against them. A scarved woman is "a soldier in the battle of Islam against the Zionist crusade" and "she should know that the hijab (headscarf), a symbol of her modesty and purity, tears (Westerners) apart inside because it exposes the depravity of their civilization."
Al-Zawahri does not mention the leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, who has not issued a video or audio tape for six months, but he praises the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, whose anti-Western forces have staged a comeback since they were driven from power in Afghanistan in 2001. He calls Omar "the commander of the faithful."
The two Web sites posting the statement said it was available on an Arabic audio tape, but this could not be opened. The text of the statement appeared in English, translated by the al-Qaida media production house, al-Sahab.