Al Qaeda's deputy leader mocked President Bush's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq, challenging him to send "the entire army," according to a new al Qaeda videotape released Monday by a U.S. group that tracks terror messages.
Excerpts from the video were distributed by the Washington-based site Institute, which said it had intercepted the footage of Ayman al-Zawahri. The tape had not yet been posted on Islamic militant Web sites, where his messages are usually placed.
Al-Zawahri said the U.S. strategy for Iraq, outlined by Bush in a Jan. 9 speech, was doomed to fail.
"I ask him, why send 20,000 (troops) only - why not send 50 or 100 thousand? Aren't you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops' dead bodies?" said al-Zawahri in the footage released by SITE, an independent group that researches and analyzes terror-related intelligence.
"So send your entire army to be annihilated at the hands of the mujahideen (holy warriors) to free the world from your evil," he said, "because Iraq, land of the Caliphate and Jihad, is able to bury ten armies like yours, with Allah's help and power."
In the video - which showed al-Zawahri in a full gray beard and wearing a white turban, in front of a black backdrop - Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant said it was the "duty" of all Muslims to take up arms against the enemies of Islam or support those who do, the AP reports.
He said that al Qaeda and the Taleban were regaining control in Afghanistan , and called on all Muslims to bear arms or support those bearing arms to defend Islam.
The message is the first apparent reaction by al-Qaeda to Mr Bush's planned "surge" in Iraq.
On 5 January, Zawahiri appeared in an audiotape posted on a website urging Somalia's Islamist militias to carry out attacks against Ethiopian troops, BBC reports.
THE former al Qaeda leader in Iraq , Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, once planned to send militants to the US on student visas to carry out attacks on US soil, officials said today.
But the plot, which came to light during a raid on an al Qaeda safe house in Iraq early last year, never got off the ground and Zarqawi was killed later in an attack by U.S. forces, officials said.
The plan, which was alluded to in congressional testimony last week by Defence Intelligence Agency director Lieutenant General Michael Maples, called for using student visas to get 10 to 20 militants into the US.
Officials said the plot appeared to be Zarqawi's response to requests by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, that the Iraq militant branch of al Qaeda carry out attacks in the US , Courier Mail says.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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