Bin Laden deputy warns of more attacks on the U.S.
DUBAI, Reuters February 25, 2004, 12:00 am TWN
A top al-Qaida leader warned U.S. President George W. Bush in an audiotape broadcast on Tuesday to prepare for more attacks on the United States.
In the tape aired by Al Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri said: "Bush, strengthen your defenses and your security measures for the Muslim nation which sent you the legion of New York and Washington has determined to send you legion after legion seeking death and paradise."
Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's righthand man, also appeared on Tuesday to single out France in its league of enemies, accusing Paris of displaying "Crusader hatred" towards Islam by banning Muslim headscarves from state classrooms.
By turning on France in an audiotape broadcast on Dubai-based Al Arabiya television, Zawahri — identifiable by his voice and rhetorical style — went beyond now familiar tirades against the United States, Britain, Gulf Arab states and other supporters of last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"France is the country of freedom which defends freedom to show the body and to be immoral and depraved. In France you're free to show yourself but not to dress modestly," he said in reference to the headscarf ban newly approved by parliament.
"This is a new sign of the Crusader hatred which Westerners harbor against Muslims while they boast of freedom, democracy and human rights," said the voice on the tape.
The authenticity of both recordings aired on the two Arab televisions could not immediately be verified, but they sounded like previous messages attributed to the Egyptian Zawahri, who is regarded as Osama bin Laden's deputy and thought to be hiding with him somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
In the Al Jazeera tape, Zawahri said Bush had lied in last month's State of the Union address when he asserted that most of al- Qaida had been crushed and that U.S. troops were spreading freedom and democracy.
"Bush alleged that his troops have spread freedom in the world, that Iraq had achieved democracry thanks to his coalition forces, that his government has crushed more than two-thirds of al- Qaida and that...Afghanistan is secure," he said.
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"The leader of the most powerful country on earth is not embarrassed to say these deceptions and lies. It's gotten to the stage that he can ridicule his listeners to this degree," he said.
Bush defended his war on terrorism and policy in Iraq in his State of the Union address that set the tone for his re-election campaign later this year.
Al-Qaida is widely seen as bent on radicalizing Muslims worldwide and encouraging them to rise up against the West in what some analysts have termed a "clash of civilizations."
The network, held responsible for the September 2001 attacks on the U.S. cities and a string of others, has portrayed Bush's "war on terror" as a modern-day crusade against Islam.
By focusing on the French headscarf ban, it appeared to be seizing on a fresh opportunity to promote that agenda and drive a wedge between Islam and the West.
Previous statements attributed to al-Qaida have usually focused on the United States and countries which backed the invasion of Iraq last year. French President Jacques Chirac was one of the war's most vocal opponents.