CAIRO: Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 issued a new videotape calling for Pakistanis to join the holy war in revenge for the attack by Pakistan’s army on a radical mosque.
Ayman Al-Zawahri’s four-and-a-half-minute address was entitled “The Aggression against Lal Masjid and entirely focused on the recent clashes between Islamic students and Pakistan’s army at the mosque.
The video was released Wednesday by Al-Qaeda’s multimedia branch, As-Sahab. Its authenticity could not immediately be confirmed, but two US-based terrorism monitoring groups also reported it.
“Muslims of Pakistan: your salvation is only through Jihad, Al-Zawahri said in the video, which was subtitled in English.
“Rigged elections will not save you, politics will not save you, and bargaining, bootlicking, negotiations with the criminals, and political maneuvers will not save you, a bespectacled and white-clad Al-Zawahri said.
“Musharraf and his hunting dogs have rubbed your honor in the dirt in the service of the Crusaders and the Jews, he said, referring to Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, who has come under strong internal criticism for his handling of the clashes at the mosque.
Al-Qaeda’s new video came as Pakistani commandos cleared the warren-like Red Mosque complex of its last die-hard defenders Wednesday and the army said it counted the bodies of 73 suspected militants.
The commandos went in after unsuccessful attempts to get the mosque’s militants to surrender to a weeklong siege mounted by the government following deadly street clashes in Islamabad with armed supporters of the mosque on July 3.
The extremists had been using the mosque as a base to send out radicalized students to enforce their version of Islamic morality, including abducting alleged prostitutes and trying to “re-educate them at the compound.
Some 106 people have been killed overall since the violence began. They include 10 soldiers, one police ranger and several civilians who died in the crossfire. The dead included the mosque’s pro-Taliban cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi.
Al-Zawahri described the cleric’s death as a “dirty, despicable crime committed by Pakistani military intelligence at the orders of Musharraf.
“This crime can only be washed away by repentance or blood, said Osama bin Laden’s deputy, who is believed to be hiding in the hinterland on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border along with Al-Qaeda’s chief.
It was the second message by Al-Zawahri this week, and his 10th this year, said Ben Venzke of the IntelCenter, a US-based intelligence group that monitors terrorism messages.
Venzke said Al-Qaeda’s media wing, As-Sahab, was now releasing more than two messages a week on average. “They just keep getting faster, he said on the telephone.
“Al-Qaeda has apparently made the decision that it’s important for them to respond to current events within a short news cycle, he said. Venzke pointed out that Al-Zawahri was reacting to events at the Red Mosque in Pakistan that were barely a week old.
SITE intelligence, another US-based monitoring group, also reported on the videotape.
As-Sahab issued a total of 58 messages for all of 2006. But Wednesday’s release was its 62nd so far for 2007, IntelCenter said.