Al-Qaeda Calls on Muslims To Fight in Lebanon, Israel
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Al-Qaeda marked the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a call for Muslims throughout the world to violently oppose the international peacekeeping force gathering in southern Lebanon and position themselves for direct assaults against Israel and Persian Gulf governments.
In a lengthy video posted on Islamic Web sites late Sunday, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, described last month's U.N.-authored cease-fire between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon as a Western plot to separate and isolate "the mujaheddin in Palestine . . . from the Muslims in Lebanon."
The Lebanon crisis, Zawahiri said, was a subset of the primary issue of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territories. Every "sincere Muslim," he said, should "hurry" to southern Lebanon to aid in setting up "a jihad base on the borders of Palestine to connect" with those on the inside.
His comments reflected an ongoing al-Qaeda effort to position itself as the vanguard of the Palestinian fight against Israel and to capitalize on the outrage the conflict generates in the Muslim world.
Zawahiri's 76-minute video, aired in part yesterday by the al-Jazeera satellite television network and CNN, was one of several released before the anniversary. Titled "Hot Issues," it showed Zawahiri, in a white robe and a turban, sitting in front of a bookcase stocked with volumes in Arabic.
Earlier Sunday, al-Qaeda posted a 90-minute documentary, titled "Knowledge is for Acting Upon." Subtitled in English and narrated by an unknown figure, it was a history of al-Qaeda grievances against the West, including the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the alleged desire of the West to occupy Arab lands in pursuit of oil and the stationing of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region.
The video combined old footage of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden with previously unseen video, including images of Sept. 11 hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Wail M. Alshehri reading portions of their wills and of bin Laden apparently consulting with his commanders before the 2001 attacks.
It also showed bin Laden, dressed in a dark robe, sitting with Muhammad Atef, a senior al-Qaeda figure who was killed in Afghanistan, and Ramzi Binalshibh, who helped facilitate the attacks and was captured four years ago in Pakistan. Binalshibh is among those President Bush said last week had been transferred from secret prisons to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Although bin Laden has recorded frequent audiotapes -- the most recent one was released July 1 -- his last known appearance on video was in October 2004. Both he and Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in the mountainous region along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Zawahiri video, translated by the Washington-based SITE Institute, was done as an interview conducted by an unseen questioner. In addition to calling on Muslims not to recognize the cease-fire agreement in Lebanon, Zawahiri:
· Described the government of Iraq as being made up of "traitors and charlatans" who had lost their place in the afterlife by cooperating with U.S. forces. He called on Iraqi Kurds to stop cooperating with it.
· Cited the "good news" that al-Qaeda had joined in a formal alliance with the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. U.S. intelligence officials confirmed the alliance, which they said had been "in the works for months."
· Repeated long-standing denunciations of governments in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.
· Called NATO forces in Afghanistan "second-rate crusaders" who had been shoved into the line of fire by withdrawing U.S. forces.
· Invited "all victims of America," including non-Muslims, to "take advantage of the opportunity" offered by the Islamic campaign and U.S. weakness as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "to ward off America's aggression against them and overcome it, each in his own way, and under his own banner and with whatever means."
Zawahiri claimed that U.S. defeat in Iraq is near and that "jihadi reinforcements" are closing in on Israel. He warned "Western peoples" that "your leaders are hiding from you the true extent of the disaster which will shock you, and the days are pregnant and giving birth to new events."