CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from “Spain to Iraq.”
In the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said that al-Qaida now views “all the world as a battlefield open in front of us.”
The Egyptian-born physician said that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Palestinian militants would not be ended with “cease-fires or agreements.”
“It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails … from Spain to Iraq,” al-Zawahri said. “We will attack everywhere.” Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims for more than seven centuries until they were driven from power in 1492.
He said Arab regimes were accomplices to Israel. “My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit … and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies … make yourselves martyrs.”
He also called for the “downtrodden” throughout the world, not just Muslims, to join the battle against “tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America.”
“Stand with Muslims in confronting this unprecedented oppression and tyranny. Stand with us as we stand with you against this injustice that was forbidden by God in his book (the Quran),” al-Zawahri said.
Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981 to 1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the al-Qaida No. 2’s outreach to Shiites and non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a major change in tactics.
“This is a transformation in the vision of al-Qaida and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight,” he said.
Al-Zawahri wore a gray robe and white turban in the video. A picture of the burning World Trade Center was on the wall behind him along with photos of two other militants. One appeared to be a bearded Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks. The other was Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, a former top lieutenant of bin Laden who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in
Afghanistan in November 2001.
The Arab satellite station did not transmit the entire tape, using instead selected quotes interspersed with commentary from an anchor.
An Al-Jazeera official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters said the full tape was about eight minutes long. The satellite channel aired only about half the message. It would not say how it received the tape.
“The shells and rockets ripping apart Muslim bodies in Gaza and Lebanon are not only Israeli (weapons), but are supplied by all the countries of the crusader coalition. Therefore, every participant in the crime will pay the price,” al-Zawahri said.
“We cannot just watch these shells as they burn our brothers in Gaza and Lebanon and stand by idly, humiliated,” he added.
The message was al-Zawahri’s 10th this year. Bin Laden has issued five messages in a particularly active year of messages from the top al-Qaida leadership.
Al-Zawahri last appeared in a video posted on an Islamic Web site on the first anniversary of the train bombings in London. In the July 7 tape, he said two of the four suicide bombers in London had spent time in an al-Qaida training camp, preparing themselves for a suicide mission.
The two top al-Qaida leaders also paid tribute in June to the slain leader of their Iraq network, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in separate recordings. Many of their messages this year have dealt with current events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
Another new audio or video message from bin Laden had also expected in the past week on the fighting in Gaza and Lebanon, according to IntelCenter, a U.S.-based independent group that provides counterterrorism information to the U.S. government and media. However, no messages have appeared on Islamic Web sites to announce the release.
Al-Zawahri said Muslims everywhere must rise up to attack “crusaders and Zionists” and support jihad “until American troops are chased from Afghanistan and Iraq, paralyzed and impotent … having paid the price for aggression against Muslims and support for Israel.”
Israel began an offensive on Gaza days after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier on June 25. It opened a second front in Lebanon after Hezbollah guerillas killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others on July 12.