(AFP) – Apr 22, 2008
DUBAI (AFP) — Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri criticised Muslims for failing to support Islamist insurgencies in Iraq and elsewhere in a new audiotape posted Tuesday on the Internet.
Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant also blasted Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas over their reported readiness to consider a peace deal with Israel.
"I call upon the Muslim nation to fear Allah's question (at judgement day) about its failure to support its brothers of the Mujahedeen (holy Warriors), and (urge it) not to withhold men and money, which is the mainstay of a war," he said.
He also used the two-and-a-half hour message to urge Muslims to join militant groups, mainly in Iraq, where he claimed that the insurgency against the Iraqi government and the US-led coalition forces is bearing fruit.
"I urge all Muslims to hurry to the battlefields of Jihad (holy war), especially in Iraq," Zawahiri said in the message, the second in a two-part series to answer about 100 questions put to him via online militant forums.
"The situation in Iraq heralds an imminent victory of Islam and the defeat of the Crusaders and those who stand under their flag," he said.
In his message, Zawahiri also called on the various jihadist groups operating in the country to unite behind the "more advanced" Al-Qaeda-backed "Islamic State of Iraq".
On Friday, Zawahiri commemorated the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq with a call to Muslims to make Iraq a "fortress of Islam".
Turning his ire on Hamas, he said the Palestinian group's reported willingness to hold a referendum on any peace deal with Israel flew in the face of Sharia, or Islamic, law.
"How can they put a matter that violates Sharia to a referendum?" he added.
Former US president Jimmy Carter said on Monday that Hamas told him it would recognise Israel's right to live in peace if a deal is reached and approved by a Palestinian vote.
Zawahiri also criticised Hamas for resorting to non-Sharia compliant measures, like elections.
"Those who claim to (plan) to implement Sharia through resorting to other than Sharia would be only fooling themselves," he said in an apparent reference to Hamas' participation in the Palestinian elections in January 2006 which swept Hamas to victory and prompted its boycott by the West.
Meanwhile, Zawahiri said that Lebanon will play a pivotal role in the Islamists' fight against the "Crusaders and Jews," calling upon Al-Qaeda followers in the country to prepare to fight Israel and UN forces.
"Lebanon is a Muslim frontline fort. It will have a pivotal role God willing in future battles with the Crusaders and the Jews," he said.
"I call upon the jihadist generation in Lebanon to prepare to reach Palestine, and to banish the invading Crusader forces which are claimed to be peace keeping forces in Lebanon," he said in reference to the UN forces delpoyed along the borders with Israel.
An Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist group waged a 15-week battle against the military last year in northern Lebanon after it was holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp.
Almost 400 people were killed, including some 222 militants and 168 troops, in the fighting which ended after a military assault on September 2.
In the first message of the two-part series release early this month, Zawahiri launched a blistering attack on the United Nations calling it the enemy of Islam and Muslims.
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