Group Says al-Qaida No. 2 Mocks Bush

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; 10:48 AM

CAIRO, Egypt -- Al-Qaida's deputy leader mocked President Bush's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq, challenging him to send "the entire army," according to a new al-Qaida videotape released Monday by a U.S. group that tracks terror messages.

Excerpts from the video were distributed by the Washington-based SITE Institute, which said it had intercepted the footage of Ayman al-Zawahri. The tape had not yet been posted on Islamic militant Web sites, where his messages are usually placed.

Al-Zawahri said the U.S. strategy for Iraq, outlined by Bush in a Jan. 9 speech, was doomed to fail.

"I ask him, why send 20,000 (troops) only _ why not send 50 or 100 thousand? Aren't you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops' dead bodies?" said al-Zawahri in the footage released by SITE, an independent group that researches and analyzes terror-related intelligence.

"So send your entire army to be annihilated at the hands of the mujahideen (holy warriors) to free the world from your evil," he said, "because Iraq, land of the Caliphate and Jihad, is able to bury ten armies like yours, with Allah's help and power."

In the video _ which showed al-Zawahri in a full gray beard and wearing a white turban, in front of a black backdrop _ Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant said it was the "duty" of all Muslims to take up arms against the enemies of Islam or support those who do.

SITE did not elaborate on how it received the video and it wasn't immediately possible to confirm its authenticity. U.S. intelligence had no immediate comment. CIA normally analyzes tapes once they air to determine whether they are authentic.

In the excerpt _ about 90 seconds from the 14-minute tape _ the Egyptian militant appeared more sedate than in past videos, not wagging his finger as he often does.

The message was the first reaction from al-Qaida's leadership to the new Iraq strategy. The U.S. has said the extra troops aim to crack down on al-Qaida fighters and other Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq, as well as Shiite militiamen blamed in the country's spiraling sectarian violence.

It was the third message by al-Zawahri in just over a month and it helped to underline the increasingly rapidity with which the terror network comments on events in the news. In the past, new videos would often refer to events dating back months before the message's appearance.

In an audiotape posted on the Web on Jan. 5, he urged Somalia's Islamic militants to carry out suicide attacks on Ethiopian troops fighting in their country.

In the latest video, he vowed that mujahideen would "break (the) backs" of the Ethiopians in Somalia, according to a full transcript of the tape released by SITE.

Al-Zawahri also contended that the al-Qaida and Taliban were regaining control in Afghanistan, denying claims that his terror group no longer has a safe haven there.

"Al-Qaida and the Taliban under the command of the commander of the faithful Mulla Muhammad Omar are the ones who have deprived America of safe haven in Afghanistan."

Al-Zawahri repeated a call he makes often in his messages, for Muslims to turn against secular and nationalist leaders and fight for Islam.

He said Muslims should try to free Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian militant cleric imprisoned in the United States after being convicted in a plot to attack New York landmarks. He also warned that "Americans must expect to pay the price for everything they have done to" detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

© 2007 The Associated Press