By Ghaida Ghantous
DUBAI (Reuters) – Al Qaeda’s deputy leader said in a videotape broadcast on Sunday that governments could not stop al Qaeda attacks and that the security of the West depended on respect for Islam and an end to aggression against Muslims.
Ayman al-Zawahri said in the tape aired by satellite channel Al Jazeera that the «new crusader campaign» — al Qaeda’s term for the U.S.-led «war on terrorism» — would end in defeat.
The Arabic television channel said the tape, which was not dated, was new. That was not immediately possible to verify. It did not mention recent events such as last month’s elections in Iraq.
Osama bin Laden’s right hand man, who was wearing a white turban and seated with a machinegun next to him, said his comments came three years after the first prisoners were taken from Afghanistan to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
«If you Western nations believe that these carton governments will protect you from our responses then you are deluded. Your real security lies in cooperating with the Muslim nation on the basis of respect and ending aggression,» said the bearded and bespectacled Zawahri in the broadcast excerpts.
«Your new crusader campaign will end, God willing, in defeat as did those that preceded it but after the deaths of tens of thousands, the destruction of your economy and exposing you in the pages of history,» he added.
In Washington, a U.S. intelligence source said it was too early to make a determination on the tape’s authenticity, adding: «We will certainly be looking very closely at it.»
The Egyptian militant said U.S. calls for democracy in the Middle East were a farce after allegations of abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay, which holds hundreds of suspects detained during the 2001 U.S.-led war to oust al Qaeda and the ruling Taliban from Afghanistan and in other operations.
«It has been three years since the first group of Muslim prisoners were sent to Guantanamo prison … One may ask why all this interest in Guantanamo when our countries are filled with a thousand Guantanamos under U.S. observation,» he said.
«It is because it exposes the truth of reform and democracy that America claims it aims to spread in our countries.
«The reform which emerges from U.S. prisons like Bagram, Kandahar, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and from the launch of cluster bombs and rockets and the appointment of the likes of (Afghanistan’s President Hamid) Karzai and (Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad) Allawi,» he said.
Zawahri and bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, have eluded capture since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, carried out by al Qaeda.
The last videotape from Zawahri was aired in November, warning that al Qaeda would continue to attack the United States until Washington changed its policies toward the Muslim world.
© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.
By Ghaida Ghantous