Al Qaeda No. 2: Attacks on Western nations in works
  • Story Highlights
  • Ayman Al-Zawahiri: Japan among targets because it helped in "crusader campaign"
  • Iran, Hezbollah claim Israel committed 9/11 to discredit al Qaeda, terror leader says
  • Al-Zawahiri: Women heroes for taking care of sons, but none belongs to al Qaeda
  • Two-hour audiotape was response to 900 questions from al Qaeda sympathizers

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Al Qaeda still has plans to target Western countries involved in the Iraq war, Osama bin Laden's chief deputy warns in an audiotape released Tuesday to answer questions posed by followers.

The voice in the lengthy file posted on an Islamic Web site could not be immediately confirmed as al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri's. But it sounded like past audiotapes from the terror leader, and the posting bore the logo of As-Sahab, al Qaeda's official media arm

The two-hour message is billed as the second installment of al-Zawahiri's answers to more than 900 questions submitted on extremist Internet sites by al Qaeda supporters, critics and journalists in December.

Responding to a question of whether the terror group had plans to attack Western countries that participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent war, al-Zawahiri said, "My answer is, yes. We think that any country that joined aggression on Muslims must be deterred."

In a question signed by the Japanese news agency Kyodo asking if Japan remains a target because it once had troops in Iraq, al-Zawahiri said Japan provided help "under the banner of the crusader coalition" and "therefore it participated in the crusader campaign against the lands of Islam."

"Our Islamic faith urged us to resist the injustice and aggression even if they were the most powerful on Earth. Should Japan take a lesson from this?" he said.

Japan deployed non-combat troops to southern Iraq in 2003 to carry out reconstruction work. It withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2006 and now conducts airlifts to help supply U.S.-led forces.

Al-Zawahiri also denied a conspiracy theory that Israel carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., and he blamed Iran and Shiite Hezbollah for spreading the idea to discredit the Sunni al Qaeda's achievement.

Al-Zawahiri accused Hezbollah's al-Manar television of starting the rumor.

"The purpose of this lie is clear -- (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.

"Iran's aim here is also clear -- to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added.

Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban, an al Qaeda ally.

The comments reflected al-Zawahiri's increasing criticism of Iran, which al-Zawahiri has accused in recent messages of seeking to extend its power in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and through its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Until recent months, he had not often mentioned the Islamic republic.

Al Qaeda has previously claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

The anti-Iranian rhetoric could reflect an attempt to exploit majority Sunnis' fears of Shiite Iran's influence in the region and depict al Qaeda as the main force opposing it.

Answering questions about Iraq in Tuesday's tape, al-Zawahiri said the Iraqi insurgent umbrella group led by al Qaeda, called the Islamic Nation of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the crusaders and challenging Iranian ambitions" there.

As he often does in his messages, al-Zawahiri denounced the "crusader invasion" of Iraq, but in Tuesday's tape he paired it with a mention of "Iranian complicity" or "Iranian agents."

Al-Zawahiri addressed several issues, including global warming -- which he said reflected "how criminal, brutal and greedy the Western crusader world is, with America at the top."

He predicted that global warming would "would make the world more sympathetic to and understanding of the Muslims' jihad against the aggressor America."

Asked if there are any women in al Qaeda, the terror leader answered simply: "No." In a follow-up, he said, "There are no women in al Qaeda jihadi group, but the women of the mujahedeen are playing a heroic role in taking care of their houses and sons."

In several parts of Tuesday's audio message, al-Zawahiri claimed that the Taliban took over 95 percent of Afghanistan and is sweeping Pakistan as well.

"Residents of the provinces and various regions welcome the Taliban and urge them to come to purify their regions of corruption; this is the secret of Taliban quick deployment and gripping control of 95 percent of Afghanistan," he said.

"The crusaders and their agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan are starting to fall," al-Zawahiri said.

In another answer Tuesday, al-Zawahiri said it was against Islamic religious law for any Muslim to live permanently in a Western country because in doing so they would "have permanent stay there under the laws of the infidels."

As-Sahab announced in December that al-Zawahiri would take questions from the public posted on militant Web sites and would respond "as soon as possible." Queries were submitted on the main Islamist Web site until the cutoff date of January 16.

Original article: CNN
Fair Use Notice