Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bin Laden still leading war: Zawahri video

Bin Laden still leading war: Zawahri video

By Heba Kandil

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden is still alive and leading a holy war against the West, the group's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in an Internet video on Wednesday.

"I bring a message of joy to all Muslims and mujahideen that al Qaeda, thanks to God, is spreading and expanding and strengthening," Zawahri said in a video posted on a Web site frequently used by militants.

"Its prince Sheikh Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, is still leading its jihad," he said, speaking against a white background to an interviewer off-camera who said the interview was to mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities -- carried out by al Qaeda.

"(Qaeda) has transformed into a popular organization confronting a new crusader Zionist campaign, in defense of all violated Muslim lands," said Zawahri, who was wearing a black turban and white robe.

It was not clear exactly when or where the interview was filmed. Bin Laden and his second-in-command, Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan and have eluded capture since the 2001 attacks.

Zawahri said the new "crusader" campaign by the United States and its Western allies was failing as evident by U.S. losses in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"America and its crusader allies have not achieved anything. Its forces in the battleground are receiving blows each day."

He discredited Iraq's January elections, saying only half the population turned out to vote, and blasted what he called a weak government that was swept into power.

"The (Iraqi) government is begging Americans not to leave because they know the day Americans leave is the day they are finished."

Four years after the U.S. war on Afghanistan, only the Taliban exercised real power in the country, chaos reigned in its capital Kabul, and legislative elections held in September were fraudulent as they were monitored by a biased United Nations, he said.

"If it wasn't for the Pakistani army's continuous support to Americans, they would have left (Afghanistan) a long time ago and they will leave soon, God wiling."

Zawahri last appeared in October, when he urged Muslims in a video broadcast by Al Jazeera television to help Pakistan's earthquake victims even though its government was an "agent" of the United States.