- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2006

From combined dispatches

Al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims in a video released yesterday to start a holy war against proposed U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region.

“O Muslim nation, come to defend your lands from crusaders masked as United Nations [troops]. Nothing will protect you except popular jihad,” al-Zawahri said in the video posted on the Internet.

The European Commission said yesterday its president, Jose Manuel Barroso, and a top EU aid official would go to Sudan this weekend to try to convince Khartoum to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

Sudan’s government refuses to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force and has resisted extending a mandate for 7,000 troops from the African Union, which are now in Darfur.

Al-Zawahri condemned President Bush, calling him a failure and a liar in the war on terror.

“Can’t you be honest at least once in your life, and admit that you are a deceitful liar who intentionally deceived your nation when you drove them to war in Iraq,” al-Zawahri said in a portion of the video released by the Washington-based SITE Institute.

Al-Zawahri also criticized Mr. Bush for continuing to imprison al Qaeda leaders, including al Qaeda’s No. 3, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed September 11 mastermind who was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.

“What you have perpetrated against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other Muslim captives in your prisons and the prisons of your slaves in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and elsewhere is not hidden from anyone, and we are a people who do not sleep under oppression and who do not abandon our revenge until our chests have been healed of those who have aggressed against us,” the Virginia-based IntelCenter quoted the message as saying.

“And we, by the grace of Allah, are seeking to exact revenge on behalf of Islam and Muslims from you and your soldiers and allies,” according to the SITE Institute.

The nearly 18-minute statement, titled “Bush, the Pope, Darfur and the Crusades,” was produced by al Qaeda’s press arm, as-Sahab. An initial segment shows al-Zawahri in an office-type setting, while in the second part, he is in front of a brown backdrop, according to the IntelCenter. The first segment also has English subtitles.

An intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said U.S. specialists view the latest video as a typical propaganda message, whose main thrust is a call for more people to join the jihad, or holy war.

It was the 14th video released by al-Zawahri so far this year.

Al-Zawahri made a reference to the pope, indicating the message was produced sometime after Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about Islam on Sept. 12, the official said.

In remarks that sparked outrage across the Muslim world, Benedict cited a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the prophet Muhammad as “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”

The pope neither endorsed nor rejected the remarks.

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