Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader appeared in a new video posted Friday calling on Americans to embrace Islam to overcome the financial meltdown, which he said was a consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks and militant strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ayman al-Zawahri, whose 80-minute recording touched on a number of subjects, also lashed out at Afghanistan's government and said any U.S. gains in Iraq will be temporary.
Zawahri's new recording came in the form of a question-and-answer session with an off-camera interviewer.
Appearing in a white turban and robe, Zawahri discussed the roots of the U.S. economic crisis. He said it was a repercussion of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and that the crisis would continue "as long as the foolish American policy of wading in Muslim blood continues."
"The American economy was afflicted by a downturn and loss of investor confidence in the market following the events of Sept. 11," he said.
"The modern economy has been destroyed by the strikes of the mujahedeen (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and usury," he said, using the Arabic term for holy warriors.
Under Islamic Sharia law, usury, like drinking alcohol, is among the grand sins.
Zawahri then called on the American people to "embrace Islam to live a life free of greed, exploitation and forbidden wealth."
Bush dared to increase troops
He also dared President George W. Bush to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan and the region.
"I tell Bush: the dogs of Afghanistan have yet to eat their fill of the flesh of the Americans," Zawahri said. "I challenge you, if you're really a man, to send the entire American army to Pakistan and the tribal regions."
Zawahri's new tape came about a week after his last message, which he used to accuse U.S. President-elect Barack Obama of turning his back on his black heritage to gain power.
Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant did not refer to the attacks in Mumbai, India, late Wednesday and early Thursday that killed scores.
Intelligence analysts said the violence carried trademarks of al-Qaida but evidence has been pointing to homegrown terrorists. A little known suspected Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility.
Zawahri also labeled Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent attempt to negotiate with Taliban insurgents a sign of his government's weakness. He also accused the United States of giving phony reports of success in the turbulent region, maintaining the Americans are doomed to fail in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Says U.S. gains in Iraq temporary
Discussing Iraq, Zawahri said that U.S. gains are temporary. He also stressed that that Sunni Awakening Councils — former insurgents who have revolted against al-Qaida — will not be accepted by the Shiite majority government.
Zawahri spoke out against charges al-Qaida has killed innocent civilians, calling the reports Western propaganda.
Zawahri, an Egyptian, also took aim at Egypt's government, blaming it for the blockade of the Gaza Strip because it has kept its border with the territory sealed. Israel has also sealed crossing points because of Palestinian rocket fire.
Zawahri called on Egyptian students and workers to stage a general strike to demand the lifting of the siege on Gaza.
"What is the problem if everybody goes on strike in Egypt and announces that they are blockading themselves in their houses until the government lifts the blockade from our brothers in Gaza?" he said.