Al Qaeda No. 2 Decries U.S. Idea of Reform

By Mariam Fam
Associated Press
Saturday, June 18, 2005

CAIRO, June 17 -- Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader released a new video, broadcast on al-Jazeera television on Friday, in which he disparaged the U.S. concept of reform for the Middle East and said armed jihad was the only way to bring about change in the Arab world.

The message by Ayman Zawahiri -- his first video since February -- appeared to be an attempt by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network to co-opt the rising wave of reform movements in the Middle East.

"The removal of the Crusader and Jewish invaders won't occur by peaceful demonstrations," he said in a brief clip that aired on the pan-Arab news network. "Reform and expelling the invaders from the countries of Islam won't happen except through fighting for God's sake."

The Egyptian was shown in the video sitting before a plain backdrop, with an automatic weapon leaning beside him. He wore a white turban and black and white robes.

Zawahiri outlined what he called a true program for reform -- based on the rule of Islamic law, the end of U.S. and Western domination and the freedom of Muslim nations to run their own affairs.

"We cannot imagine any reform while our countries are occupied by the Crusader forces," he said. "We cannot imagine any reform while our governments are being ruled from the American embassies in our countries."

Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar, aired three short segments of the video without specifying the full length of the message. Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said the station received the tape on Friday but would not provide further details. Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, Pakistan bureau chief of al-Jazeera, said that the network did not receive Zawahiri's tape in Islamabad.

In one of the clips, Zawahiri called on Palestinian militant groups to end a cease-fire with Israel and to stay out of upcoming legislative elections in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Zawahiri urged them "not to forsake their jihad, not to lay down their arms . . . and not to be dragged into the game of secular elections under a secular constitution."

The Palestinian militant group Hamas is planning to enter the elections, a major change from its longtime boycott of the Palestinian Authority's politics.

Zawahiri denounced sexual assaults on women during anti-government protests last month in Egypt and sharply criticized the Pakistani, Saudi and Egyptian governments, the al-Jazeera newscaster said.

Zawahiri is an Egyptian-trained physician who served time in prison in Egypt for Islamic militancy. After his release, he moved to Afghanistan, where he merged his militant faction with bin Laden's in the late 1990s.

In February, al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape purporting to show Zawahiri denouncing U.S. calls for reform in the Middle East and urging the West to respect the Islamic world.


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