DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, in an Internet message, called on Muslims on Tuesday to strike Western and Israeli targets around the world over Israel’s Gaza raids, and accused U.S. President-elect Barack Obama of complicity.
“Hit the interests of the Zionists and crusaders wherever and in whichever way you can,” Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio tape posted on Islamist websites.
“What you are facing now ... is a link in a chain in the Zionist crusader campaign on Muslims and Islam,” Zawahri said. “These attacks are Obama’s present to you (Palestinians) before he takes office.”
Zawahri said the Gaza attacks had exposed Obama whom he said “the U.S. lying (propaganda) machine had tried to portray to the world as a saviour who would change U.S. policy.”
Obama, breaking his silence about the fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants, expressed deep concern on Tuesday about civilian deaths in Gaza and in Israel and vowed to push for Middle East peace when he takes power.
“We are keen to realise the vow of our Sheikh Osama bin Laden ... that America or anyone living there won’t be able to even dream of security until we truly experience it in Palestine and until all infidel armies leave the lands of (Prophet) Mohammad,” Zawahri said, citing a bin Laden message in 2001.
Zawahri, an Egyptian, blasted Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak as a “traitor” for failing to back Palestinians in the face of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
He called for mass strikes in Egypt and said Suleiman Khater, an Egyptian conscript who shot dead seven Israeli tourists in Sinai in 1985, was “an example to follow for the zealous and free in the Egyptian army.”
The 10-minute audio tape, produced by al Qaeda’s media arm As-Sahab, was part of a video showing a still photograph of Zawahri with an assault rifle on his lap and that of a Palestinian child receiving emergency treatment after apparently being wounded in the Israeli attacks which have killed more than 630 people.
Reporting by Firouz Sedarat and Inal Ersan