- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2004

CAIRO — A tape purportedly recorded by Ayman al-Zawahri, the No. 2 figure in the al Qaeda terror group, called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a “traitor” and urged people to overthrow his government.

The pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera broadcast a seven-minute excerpt from a tape it received yesterday. Its authenticity could not be verified immediately, but the speaker sounded like al-Zawahri and made references to the Islamic holy book, the Koran, which is known to be al-Zawahri’s style.

The speaker also called for a military uprising in Pakistan.

“Musharraf seeks to stab the Islamic resistance in Afghanistan in the back,” he said.

“Every Muslim in Pakistan should work hard to get rid of this client government, which will continue to submit to America until it destroys Pakistan.”

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said the government has no immediate comment on the tape. When an al-Zawahri tape released in September called for Gen. Musharraf’s overthrow, the government said it would not be deterred in its pursuit of terrorists.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he heard news reports about the tape and said al-Zawahri “is clearly an individual who is very high-ranking and is capable of, and has in the past killed innocent men, women and children. And so one has to recognize that.”

The tape comes as Pakistani troops are in the second week of a campaign along the Afghan border in South Waziristan, a longtime hiding place and stronghold of Islamic militants from al Qaeda, Afghanistan’s Taliban and their Pakistani supporters.

After Gen. Musharraf spoke hopefully of capturing a “high-value target,” there was speculation that al-Zawahri might be in the rugged border area where local tribes have more power than the Pakistani federal government.

Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat said yesterday that more than 50 terrorists have been killed in the operation. More than 150 suspects have been captured, said Brig. Mahmood Shah, chief of security in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

It was not known when the tape was made, but the speaker appeared to be referring to the conflict in South Waziristan when he said, “I call on the Pakistani army: You, poor army, what a miserable state Musharraf has put you in. … Musharraf ruins your natural fences — those tribes on the border — by engaging you in a fight with them. Then he removes your nuclear weapons.

“Will you stay silent until Pakistan is divided again?”

The speaker repeatedly named the Pashtun and Baluch border tribes and urged them to close ranks with the Taliban against the Pakistani army.

“Taliban and their supporters are your brothers,” the speaker said, “so how can you allow the agents of crusaders and Jews to hurt them?”

He used the word “crusaders” for Americans as Islamic militants often do.

He did not mention Israel’s Monday morning assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, which suggests the tape was recorded before then.

Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said the Qatar-based channel received the 17-minute-long tape yesterday. “Indications are that it is authentic,” Mr. Ballout said, “the voice, the nuances.”

Al-Zawahri is believed to have provided much of the ideology driving al Qaeda since his Egyptian Islamic Jihad merged with Osama bin Laden’s network in 1998, analysts say. The United States has offered a $25 million reward for his capture.

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