Al-Qaeda No 2 Ayman al-Zawahri threatened the leaders of the United States, Britain and Pakistan with more bloodshed in a chilling video that included one of the four suspected London suicide bombers saying crimes against Muslims justified attacks on the West.
The tape, excerpts of which were aired by Arab satellite station al-Jazeera late on Thursday and posted on its website on Friday, included a veiled claim of responsibility by al-Zawahri for the July 7 London transport system bombings that killed 56 people, including the four attackers.
Al-Zawahri, who is thought to be hiding along the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border, threatened the West with "more catastrophes" in retaliation for the policies of US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Osama bin Laden's deputy also accused Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf of being "an agent for the Crusaders (wanting) to destroy Pakistan's religious schools as a service to America and Britain."
Al-Jazeera's newscaster said the al-Zawahri tape also contained a "testament" by Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the London suicide bombers.
Speaking with a heavy Yorkshire accent, Khan said he was inspired by bin Laden, al-Zawahri and the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi. It was unclear where or how long before the July 7 bombings the tape of Khan had been made.
"Until you will stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight," said Khan, wearing a red-and-white checked keffiyeh and a dark jacket. "We are at war, and I am a soldier and now you too will taste the reality of this situation."
In his tape, al-Zawahri did not say outright that his terror group carried out the London bombings, but said they were a direct response to Britain's foreign policies and rejection of an al-Qaida truce offered to Europe in April 2004.
After the March 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, bin Laden reportedly offered European countries a three-month cease-fire to consider his demands to withdraw their troops from Muslim countries. Effectively it meant that European forces should leave Afghanistan and Iraq.
Al-Zawahri appeared in black turban and white robes with an automatic weapon leaning against the wall beside him, as he did in a previous tape aired August 4 when he made similar threats.
'Everything for what we believe'
In his part of the tape, Khan said he had forsaken "everything for what we believe" and went on to accuse Western civilians of being directly responsible for terror attacks that befall them.
"Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate injustice against my people all over the world, and your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters," said Khan, a 30-year-old Leeds resident who died in the London Underground train bombing near Edgware Road.
Khan was shown in the video with a trimmed beard and appeared to be sitting against a wall lined with an ornate carpet.
Two US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the message's sensitive nature, said any claim of responsibility does not necessarily indicate that al-Qaida planned or directed the attack.
In London, a police spokeswoman said authorities would consider the tape "as part of our ongoing investigation." Blair's office refused to comment.
The deputy chief editor of al-Jazeera, Ayman Gaballah, said the broadcaster received the tape on Thursday by means it would not disclose.
The tape was 15 minutes long and contained several clips of fighting in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.
Source: China Daily