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Al-Jazeera broadcasts tape by Al Qaeda leader

Al-Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri focused on political developments in the Palestinian territories.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 23:03 IST

The Arab news channel Al-Jazeera broadcast on Friday a new videotape by Al Qaeda's deputy leader in which he praised Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but did not mention his death, suggesting it was made earlier.

Al-Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri focused on political developments in the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Egypt.

He mentioned a referendum proposed on May 25 by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The video is the sixth that al-Zawahri, the Egyptian deputy of Osama bin Laden, has issued this year.

An Al-Jazeera anchorman said that the tape was made before the announcement of al-Zarqawi's death Thursday, because al-Zawahri praised the al-Qaida in Iraq leader's efforts to confront US-led forces in Iraq.

"God bless the prophet of Islam in Iraq, the persistent hero of Islam, the Holy Warrior Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," al-Zawahri said, wearing a white turban and tunic and speaking in front of a black background with an automatic weapon propped up beside him.

He repeatedly waved his right arm, pointing his finger in a gesture of admonishment.

The channel did not say how it obtained the recording. It broadcast about six minutes of the approximately 17 minute-long recording, an editor at the channel told The Associated Press.

A US counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while events were unfolding, said government experts are doing a technical analysis of the video, but there is no reason to doubt its authenticity.

The official noted that al-Zawahri didn't make any threats against the United States in the message, and its content is reminiscent of other propaganda statements Al-Qaeda has made in attempts to appear relevant. References in the video suggest it no older than the end of May.

The tape is part of stepped-up level of messaging from Al-Qaeda's leadership, "higher than at any point in the group's history," said Ben Venzke, head of IntelCentre, a private US company that monitors militant message traffic and provides counterterrorism intelligence services for the American government.

Bin Laden has issued three audiotapes this year, breaking a silence that lasted more than a year.

In the video, al-Zawahri criticized a proposed national referendum in the Palestinian territories on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel and giving recognition to the Jewish state.

"I call on Muslims to reject any referendum on Palestine, because Palestine is part of the Islamic world and not subject to any compromise."

"I call upon Muslims everywhere to support the brothers in Palestine," he said mentioning armed Islamist militants, prisoners and their families.

Lashing out at the United States and Israel, he accused them of trying to make the Palestinian people "kneel down and to give in to the supreme powers that are trying to impose the Israeli entity on the lands of Islam through the military occupation and the betrayal of the Arab leaders."

He railed against Arab leaders and US President George W Bush for not providing financial support for the Palestinian people.

The Palestinians' financial problems were made much worse this year with a Western freeze on most aid after Hamas' won in legislative elections. Arab countries have largely failed to make good on pledges for financial aid to the Palestinians.

"The Arab leaders didn't have the courage ... to meet the Palestinians needs for one month because the Caesar of Washington gave orders to make the Palestinians starve by besieging them," he said.

On developments in Sudan, he concentrated on the situation in Darfur, criticizing a visit by UN Security Council delegation ahead of an eventual deployment of UN peacekeepers as opening the way "to occupy and divide" the country.

"I call upon every Muslim and everyone who has faith in Sudan, and every fervent Muslim in Darfur to confront the Zionist Crusader plot to occupy the lands of Islam."

Al-Zawahri lashed out at Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir accusing him of inaction in the face of the "plot" to divide Sudan, "for the sake of keeping his position as a ruler." Bin Laden called for Muslims to fight any peacekeeping operation in Sudan in an April audiotape.

First Published: Jun 09, 2006 23:03 IST