- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

CAIRO — An American who has become a sometime-spokesman for al Qaeda appeared in a videotape with the terror group’s deputy leader yesterday and called on his countrymen to convert to Islam and for U.S. soldiers to switch sides in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

The 48-minute video, posted on an Islamic militant Web site, had footage of al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, and of Adam Yehiye Gadahn, 28, an American who the FBI thinks attended al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and served as an al Qaeda translator.

It was the second time Gadahn appeared in a video with al-Zawahri. In a July 7 video marking the one-year anniversary of the terror attack on London commuters, Gadahn appeared briefly, saying no Muslim should “shed tears” for Westerners killed by al Qaeda attacks.

But Saturday’s video — and the length of Gadahn’s speech — suggested al Qaeda has found in him someone who can directly address the American people in idiom with which they are familiar.

Appearing days before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, Gadahn spoke for nearly the entire video, wearing a white robe and a white turban, sitting in front of a desk with a computer and Islamic religious books in a white-walled room.

The tape was dated September 2006 and appeared to have been recorded recently as Gadahn referred to Israel’s recent war in Lebanon. Unlike past al Qaeda messages, the video included no direct threats of coming terror attacks.

Gadahn delivered a lecture on Islam and the “errors” in Christianity and Judaism. He also the United States is losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and told U.S. soldiers they are fighting President Bush’s “crusades.”

“Instead of killing yourself for Bush … why not surrender to the truth [of Islam], escape from the unbelieving army, and join the winning side? Time is running out, so make the right choice before it’s too late,” he said.

Al-Zawahri gave only a brief introduction to the video, calling on Americans to convert to Islam.

The CIA said it had conducted a technical review on the videotape and concluded the voice is al-Zawahri’s. A CIA spokeswoman said the agency is not authorized to conduct such analysis on U.S. citizens such as Gadahn.

White House spokeswoman Christie Parell said the message reflects al-Qaida’s “continued attempts to subjugate the world under its twisted view of Islam, which labels as enemies and infidels those who do not have the same beliefs.”

Little is known about Gadahn’s role in al Qaeda. A Californian who converted to Islam, he disappeared soon after the September 11 attacks. In 2004, the FBI announced it was seeking Gadahn in connection with possible terrorist threats against the U.S., but added it did not have information linking him to any specific terror activities.

“You know that if you die as an unbeliever in battle against the Muslims, you’re going straight to hell without passing ‘Go,’” Gadahn said on the video, addressing American soldiers. “You know you’re considered by Bush and his bunch of warmongers as nothing more than expendable cannon fodder.”

Gadahn also urged other Americans to convert to Islam.

Gadahn and al-Zawahri appeared in separate parts of the video, which was released by al Qaeda’s production wing, As-Sahab. Gadahn spoke with his face uncovered, resembling FBI photos, with his name and nom de guerre — “Azzam the American” — written in titles in Arabic and English next to him. Arabic subtitles translated his comments.

Gadahn is believed to be a masked figure who appeared in two previous videos not officially from al Qaeda, one given to ABC television in 2004 and another a few days before the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

In the 2005 tape, the speaker — who had black cloth draped over his face, leaving only his eyes visible — threatened new terror attacks in Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia. The 2004 tape praised the September 11 attacks and said a new wave of attacks could come at any moment.

The latest video had been advertised on militant Web sites for several days. Al-Zawahri last appeared in a video July 27, calling for Muslims to unite in a holy war against Israel and to join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza.

Nancy Pearlman, Gadahn’s aunt, declined to comment about the tape when contacted by the Associated Press, saying she had not seen it. She declined to talk about anything else regarding her nephew.

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