- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008

CAIRO | Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader appeared in a new video posted Friday calling on Americans to embrace Islam to overcome the financial meltdown, which he said was a consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks and militant strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ayman al-Zawahri, whose 80-minute recording touched on a number of subjects, also lashed out at Afghanistan’s government and said any U.S. gains in Iraq will be temporary.

Al-Zawahri’s new recording came in the form of a question-and-answer session with an off-camera interviewer.

Appearing in a white turban and robe, al-Zawahri discussed the roots of the U.S. economic crisis. He said it was a repercussion of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and that the crisis would continue “as long as the foolish American policy of wading in Muslim blood continues.”

“The American economy was afflicted by a downturn and loss of investor confidence in the market following the events of September 11,” he said.

“The modern economy has been destroyed by the strikes of the [in Iraq and Afghanistan],” he said, using the Arabic term for holy warriors, “and usury.”

Under Islamic Shariah law, usury, like drinking alcohol, is among the grand sins.

Al-Zawahri then called on the American people to “embrace Islam to live a life free of greed, exploitation and forbidden wealth.”

He also dared President Bush to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan and the region.

“I tell Bush: the dogs of Afghanistan have yet to eat their fill of the flesh of the Americans,” al-Zawahri said. “I challenge you, if you’re really a man, to send the entire American Army to Pakistan and the tribal regions.”

Al-Zawahri’s new tape came about a week after his last message, which he used to accuse President-elect Barack Obama of turning his back on his black heritage to gain power.

Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant did not refer to the attacks in Bombay late Wednesday and early Thursday that killed scores.

Discussing Iraq, he said U.S. gains are temporary. He also stressed that Sunni Awakening Councils - former insurgents who have revolted against al Qaeda - will not be accepted by the Shi’ite majority government.

Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, also took aim at Egypt’s government, blaming it for the blockade of the Gaza Strip because it has kept its border with the territory sealed. He called on Egyptian students and workers to stage a general strike to demand the lifting of the siege.

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