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Zawahri praises fighters in Afghanistan

According to an Internet audiotape, the Al-Qaeda's second-in-command praised Islamic fighters in Afghanistan.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 13:02 IST

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, praised Islamic fighters in Afghanistan, according to an Internet audiotape posted, a day after Osama bin Laden warned of attacks in America.

In Washington, a CIA spokeswoman said it was Zawahri's voice on the tape.

A US counter-terrorism official initially said the tape was several years old but then retracted the statement, saying that the date of the recording was uncertain.

"I am honoured to recite this jihadist poem," Zawahri said, praising mujahideen fighters. "We shall remain true to our oath (with the Afghan mujahideen)."

The message emerged one day after bin Laden, Al-Qaeda's leader, said the group was preparing attacks in the United States but was open to a conditional truce with the Americans, according to an audiotape attributed to him.

In his 17-minute tape, Zawahri praised an Islamist Afghan poet, Mohebullah Kandahari: "The owner of the sword and pen, who carried both a machine gun and the Koran, known in scholarly circles ... And who could be seen in jihadi arenas from the time of the Russian communist attack on Afghanistan until the crusader raid (led by the United States in 2001)."

The CIA spokeswoman on Friday said: "After conducting a technical analysis, the CIA concludes with high confidence that the voice on the tape is that of Ayman al-Zawahri."

The little-known website, which carried the tape, said it was new, but the US counter-terrorism official cast doubt on that assertion. "There is no reason to believe it was done recently. It could have been done at any time," the official said.

The United States conducted an air strike in Pakistan last week, which officials said was aimed at Zawahri and in which Pakistani intelligence sources said "a few militants" had been killed.

The last tape attributed to Zawahri was issued earlier this month. He said US President George W. Bush's plans to withdraw troops from Iraq meant Washington had been defeated by the Muslims.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 12:35 IST