WASHINGTON, August 11 – Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command to Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, has released his first English-language video call for jihad in Pakistan, the US-based IntelCenter said Sunday.
The message was aired on Pakistan’s ARY television network, IntelCenter said in a statement, adding that it marked "the first official message ever … in which he speaks English."
Zawahiri "calls for the people to support jihad in Pakistan and lists a litany of grievances against the Pakistani government and US involvement there," said IntelCenter, which monitors extremist websites and communications.
In particular, Zawahiri accuses Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf of being "thirsty for money and a bribeseeker," arguing that he is working to support US and Western interests and that he has committed crimes against Muslims all over the world.
Zawahiri also describes Abdul Qadeer Khan — the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb under house arrest for transferring nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea — as a "scapegoat to appease the Americans."
"Let there be no doubt in your minds that the dominant political forces at work in Pakistan today are competing to appease and please the modern day Crusaders in the White House, and are working to destabilize this nuclear capable nation under the aegis of America," Zawahiri was quoted as saying by IntelCenter.
The Al-Qaeda chief "also relates his own personal experiences having lived in Pakistan in an apparent attempt to build a stronger connection with the Pakistani people."
The Egyptian-born Zawahiri says he picked English because he "wants to speaks directly to the Pakistani people and chose English because he cannot speak Urdu."
Zawahiri was briefly rumored to have died in a July 28 missile strike in Pakistan, but US intelligence and Pakistan’s Taliban movement subsequently denied the reports.
Al-Qaeda in a statement posted on an Islamist website acknowledged that the strike did kill an Al-Qaeda weapons expert, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, also known as Abu al-Khabab al-Masri.
Zawahiri has been indicted for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.
The FBI has offered a reward of up to 25 million dollars for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Musharraf is currently under mounting pressure to quit, with his allies joining ruling coalition calls for him to go before impeachment proceedings for allegedly mismanaging the country begin on Monday.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, ruled nuclear-armed Pakistan relatively untroubled for several years with the backing of the United States, which has counted him as a key ally since the September 11 attacks.
But his popularity slumped after he ousted the country’s chief justice and imposed a state of emergency in November 2007 to prevent any challenges to his re-election as president.
Musharraf later stepped down as army chief, and the parties of Asif Ali Zardari Zardari — the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto — and former premier Nawaz Sharif subsequently trounced his allies in elections in February.