Al Qaeda's No. 2 Blames Blair, Issues Warning

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 5, 2005

LONDON, Aug. 4 -- Al Qaeda's second-in-command said in a video statement Thursday that the London transit bombings were retribution for British military intervention in Muslim countries and warned of "more destruction" if Britain doesn't withdraw. He also threatened new attacks on Americans.

The statement from Ayman Zawahiri was issued on a day in which London commuters rode trains and buses amid some of the tightest security since World War II, due to fears of a repeat of the attacks of July 7 and 21. No attack occurred. Instead, the four-week anniversary of the July 7 explosions brought the first statement clearly from al Qaeda about the violence.

Prime Minister Tony Blair "has brought you destruction in central London and, God willing, will bring more destruction," Zawahiri said, addressing the "English people" in a statement broadcast on the al-Jazeera satellite television channel.

"Our message to you is crystal clear: Your salvation will only come in your withdrawal from our land, in stopping the robbing of our oil and resources, and in stopping your support for the corrupt and corrupting leaders."

Officials at the prime minister's Downing Street office provided no comment. Blair has previously rejected claims that the transit bombings were a result of Britain's role in the Iraq war, and politicians across the spectrum have stood by him.

Zawahiri, wearing a white tunic and black turban and posed next to a rifle, did not directly assert al Qaeda's responsibility for the attacks. But he said that since Britons "shed rivers of blood in our land, we exploded volcanoes of anger in your land."

His statement accused U.S. leaders of concealing from Americans that "there is no exit from Iraq except in immediate withdrawal." He called the casualties of Sept. 11, 2001, "merely the losses from the initial clashes."

President Bush, speaking in Crawford, Tex., said that the comments "make it clear Iraq is a part of this war on terror, and we're at war. He's saying, you know, leave. . . . People like Zawahiri have a ideology that is dark, dim, backwards. He's threatening. They have come up against a nation that will defend itself."

British police are questioning at least 17 people in connection with the attacks of July 21, including four men suspected of carrying bombs onto three subway trains and a double-decker bus. Those bombs failed to explode, but startled Londoners into thinking that the July 7 explosions, in which four presumed bombers and 52 other people died, might have been the beginning of a coordinated campaign of violence.

Investigators are attempting to determine if the bombers in the two plots were linked or directed by al Qaeda or some other international group.

"I tend to think it's not al Qaeda-linked, but it's al Qaeda-inspired," said Rime Allaf, a Middle East specialist at Chatham House, a private foreign affairs research center in London. "Al Qaeda's not shy about claiming responsibility."

Zawahiri has issued three previous statements this year by audio or video recording. The CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center were studying the latest, and U.S. officials said it appeared to be authentic. It differs from the past three videos in that Zawahiri wears a black turban rather than a white one and appears to be outside in front of a light-colored cloth rather than in a studio-like setting.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company