- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

CAIRO — Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a videotape aired yesterday that President Bush was a “butcher” and a “failure” because of a deadly U.S. air strike in Pakistan that targeted him and then threatened a new attack on the United States.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the tape, which U.S. intelligence officials were analyzing. The official said the message broadcast by Al Jazeera showed that al Qaeda thinks it is important to convey that al-Zawahri is alive.

In Washington, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said the bureau will ask agents across the United States to review ongoing cases and tips in light of the new tape, especially with two major events this week — the State of the Union in Washington and the Super Bowl in Detroit.

Al-Zawahri, shown in the video wearing white robes and a white turban, said that a Jan. 13 air strike in the eastern Pakistani village of Damadola killed “innocents” and that the United States had ignored an offer from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for a truce.

“Butcher of Washington, you are not only defeated and a liar, but also a failure. You are a curse on your own nation, and you have brought and will bring them only catastrophes and tragedies,” he said, referring to Mr. Bush. “Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses.”

In a portion of the video not aired on Al Jazeera, the al Qaeda deputy even invited the U.S. president to convert to Islam as a way to repent for his actions.

“If you obey, you will be a brother in religion, and God will pardon the past,” al-Zawahri said.

The Pakistan air strike hit a building in Damadola, where U.S. intelligence thought al-Zawahri had been attending an Islamic holiday dinner. The strike killed four al Qaeda leaders — including a man thought to be al-Zawahri’s son-in-law — but intelligence officials said later that they think al-Zawahri sent his aides to the dinner in his place.

Thirteen villagers also were killed in the strike, angering many Pakistanis.

The video was al-Zawahri’s first appearance since the air strike and came 11 days after the latest audiotape by bin Laden.

The U.S. counterterrorism official noted that the video was disseminated quickly, demonstrating al-Zawahri’s ability to get his message out even faster than bin Laden.

On Jan. 19, Al Jazeera broadcast an audio message from bin Laden in which he referred to a secret British government memo disclosed in a Nov. 22 newspaper story. But al-Zawahri’s message yesterday refers to an attack that took place a little more than two weeks ago.

The video comes after bin Laden warned that al Qaeda is preparing attacks in the United States but offered a truce “with fair conditions” to build Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House firmly rejected bin Laden’s suggestion of a negotiated truce.

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Vice President Dick Cheney said at the time. “I think you have to destroy them.”

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