Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Al-Qaida No. 2: new audiotape released today

The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 6:12 AM

CAIRO, Egypt -- Osama bin Laden's chief deputy warns that al-Qaida still has plans to target Western countries involved in the Iraq war in a new 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-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri's. But it sounded like past audiotapes from the terror leader.

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

Asked by one follower if the terror group still had plans to attack Western countries that participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent war, al-Zawahri said: "My answer is: Yes! We think that any country that has joined aggression on Muslims must be deterred."

Asked if there are any women in al-Qaida, the terror leader answered simply: "No."

In another answer, al-Zawahri said it was against Islamic religious law for any Muslim to live permanently in a Western country "under the laws of the infidels."

In his first response to questions earlier this month, al-Zawahri rejected the criticism of attacks by the terror network's followers, which have killed thousands, and maintained that the group does not kill innocent people.

Al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington in 2001, while its affiliates in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria regularly set off bombs in crowded urban areas that have taken thousands of lives.

Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, announced in December that al-Zawahri would take questions from the public posted on Islamic militant Web sites and would respond "as soon as possible."

Queries were submitted on the main Islamist Web site until the cutoff date of Jan. 16. After the deadline, the questions disappeared from the site.

According to the questions, self-proclaimed al-Qaida supporters appeared to be as much in the dark about the terror network's operations and intentions as Western analysts and intelligence agencies.

The questioners appeared uncertain whether al-Qaida's central leadership directly controls the multiple, small militant groups around the Middle East that work in its name, or whether those groups operate on their own.

Some asked if al-Qaida had a long-term strategy, while others wanted advice about conducting Islamic holy war. (Washington Post)


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