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Videotape proves bin Laden deputy is still alive

CAIRO, Egypt—Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, threatened new attacks against the United States and said Americans should beware of a government "shedding your blood and wasting your money" in the war on terror, according to a video message aired Monday.

The message, part rallying cry for the Islamic world and part warning to the West, was the third al-Qaida message broadcast within a month. Intelligence analysts have said that the flurry of tapes could signal an impending attack but also could be a new propaganda campaign aimed not only at Muslim audiences, but also at Americans.

The tape, broadcast on Al-Jazeera television 11 days after a similar audio message from al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, provided the first visual proof that al-Zawahri survived a U.S. airstrike on Jan. 13 that targeted him in eastern Pakistan. The attack killed 13 villagers and touched off several days of angry protests. U.S. intelligence officers believe four al-Qaida leaders also died in the strike.

Mohamed Salah, the Cairo bureau chief for the Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper, said the speed of al-Zawahri's response—not the message—was most surprising. He said the tape is evidence that, even from a remote hiding place, al-Zawahri is able to address the world about an event barely two weeks old.

"Ayman Zawahri is telling us he's in a location where he can follow the news, that he knows what the Americans are doing and that they can't catch him," Salah said.

At one point, al-Zawahri appealed directly to the mothers of British and American troops, telling them to remember President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair if their sons come home injured or dead.

"Your leaders responded to the initiative of Sheik Osama, may God protect him, by saying they don't negotiate with terrorists and that they are winning the war on terror," al-Zawahri said in an angry voice. "I tell them: You liars, greedy warmongers, who is pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Us or you?"

Al-Zawahri called Bush a "butcher" and a "failure" and said that the airstrike in Pakistan killed only innocents.

"In seeking to kill my humble self and four of my brothers, the whole world has discovered the extent of America's lies and failures, and the extent of its savagery in fighting Islam and Muslims," said al-Zawahri, who appears alone in the video wearing a white robe and turban.

Salah interviewed al-Zawahri by fax in 1993 and has tracked his public statements for more than a decade. Through the year, Salah said, the Egyptian-born doctor has transformed himself from an angry extremist guerrilla to a more statesman-like and increasingly media-savvy leader.

"He's changed a lot and so has his audience," Salah said. "In this tape, he's talking to Americans, trying to persuade Americans that the danger lies in the U.S. leadership, not in al-Qaida."


(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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