- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

CAIRO — Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader released a new video, broadcast on Al Jazeera television yesterday, in which he disparaged the U.S. concept of reform in the Middle East and said armed jihad is the only way to bring change in the Arab world.

The message by Ayman al-Zawahri — his first video since February — appeared to be an attempt by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network to co-opt the rising wave of reform movements in the Middle East.

“The removal of the crusader and Jewish invaders won’t occur by peaceful demonstrations,” he said in a brief clip shown on the pan-Arab network. “Reform and expelling the invaders from the countries of Islam won’t happen except through fighting for God’s sake.”

The Egyptian was shown in the video sitting before a plain backdrop with an automatic weapon placed next to him. He wore a white turban and black and white robes.

He outlined what he called a true program for reform based on the rule of Islamic law, the end of U.S. and Western domination, and the freedom of the Muslim nation to run its own affairs.

“We cannot imagine any reform while our countries are occupied by the crusader forces,” he said. “We cannot imagine any reform while our governments are being ruled from the American embassies in our countries.”

Al-Zawahri, a physician, served time in prison in Egypt for Islamic militancy. After his release, he moved to Afghanistan, where he merged his militant faction with bin Laden’s in the late 1990s.

In February, Al Jazeera broadcast a videotape purporting to show al-Zawahri denouncing U.S. calls for reform in the Middle East and urging the West to respect the Islamic world.

Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, in a statement posted on the Internet in January, said his group has “declared a bitter war against democracy and all those who seek to enact it.” Zarqawi also declared all Iraqi candidates for parliament and voters enemies of Islam.

“Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion,” CNN quoted him as saying, and that is “against the rule of God.”

Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said the station received the al-Zawahri tape yesterday, but would not provide details.

In one of the aired clips, al-Zawahri called on Palestinian militant groups to end a cease-fire with Israel and stay out of upcoming legislative elections in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Al-Zawahri urged them “not to forsake their jihad, not to lay down their arms … and not to be dragged into the game of secular elections under a secular constitution.”

The militant group Hamas is planning to enter the national elections, a major change from its longtime boycott of Palestinian Authority politics.

The newscast said in other parts of the tape that al-Zawahri denounced sexual assaults on women during anti-government protests last month in Egypt and sharply criticized the Pakistani, Saudi and Egyptian governments.


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