Al Qaeda deputy slams Obama’s Mideast efforts

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CAIRO (AP) | Al Qaeda’s deputy leader said President Obama has deceived Arabs about his efforts to restart Mideast peace talks and claimed in a message posted Monday that the American president has done nothing for the region so far.

Ayman al-Zawahri also vowed the terrorist network will not forget militants held in American prisons - including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, bombings.

Mohammed and four others, held for years at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are due to stand trial on charges they plotted the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Last month’s announcement of the trial, which will be held just blocks from where the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, has sparked concerns about the security risks involved.

Al-Zawahri issued no threats in his new audio message, but singled out Mohammed and two others - Ramzi Youssef, convicted and serving a life sentence for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, and Omar Abdel-Rahman, serving a life sentence for conspiracies to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

“We are not forgetting our brothers … and urge all Muslims not to forget them,” al-Zawahri said. “We are not forgetting Omar Abdel-Rahman, Ramzi Youssef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.”

But the bulk of al-Zawahri’s new message focused on Mr. Obama.

Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant has repeatedly criticized the U.S. president, playing on Arab disillusionment over the stalled peace process and trying to undermine Mr. Obama’s outreach to Muslims.

“Obama’s plan, though wrapped in smiles and calls for respect and understanding, aims only to support Israel,” al-Zawahri said. “Obama’s policy is nothing but another cycle in the Crusader and Zionist campaign to enslave and humiliate us, and to occupy our land and steal our wealth.”

The authenticity of the statement could not be independently verified, but it was posted on a Web site commonly used for militants’ messaging.

Al-Zawahri also scoffed at key American allies in the region - the Egyptian president and the Jordanian and the Saudi kings - for supporting peace with Israel. He urged Muslims and Palestinians to wage war both in and outside of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He praised Muslim militants fighting in Pakistan, saying the conflict there was a “war of Muslim dignity and pride” and warned the Palestinians against any negotiations with Israel.

Zawahri is a physician and the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He has been indicted for his purported role in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, according to the U.S. State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” Web site. It offers a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to his arrest or elimination.

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