(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Osama bin Laden's longtime lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, said the United States faces rebellion throughout the Muslim world after killing the al-Qaida leader, according to a YouTube recording posted on Wednesday.
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In what appeared to be his first public response to bin Laden's death in a US commando raid in Pakistan last month, the Egyptian-born Zawahri warned Americans not to gloat and vowed to press ahead with al-Qaida's campaign against the United States and its allies. "The Sheikh has departed, may God have mercy on him, to his God as a martyr, and we must continue on his path of jihad to expel the invaders from the land of Muslims and to purify it from injustice," Zawahri said in the 28-minute clip.
"Today, and thanks be to God, America is not facing an individual or a group ... but a rebelling nation which has awoken from its sleep in a jihadist renaissance challenging it wherever it is."
Zawahri's association with bin Laden predates the al-Qaida attacks on the United States in September 2001 that led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
While the bespectacled Zawahri has been touted as successor to bin Laden, experts on al-Qaida say that another Egyptian militant, Saif al-Adel, is in interim command of al-Qaida.
In the video, Zawahri warned Americans not to rejoice at bin Laden's death. "You should await what will befall you after every celebration," he said.
He condemned US forces for burying bin Laden at sea, a move opposed by senior Muslim clerics as un-Islamic. The US said the burial included Muslim rite and took place at sea to deny bin Laden's followers a shrine.
"He terrified America when he was alive and is terrifying it as a dead man, to the point that they shudder at the prospect of giving him a grave because of what they know of the love of tens of millions for him," he said.
Bin Laden, Zawahri said, would continue to "haunt America and Israel and their Crusader allies, their corrupt agents".
"His famous pledge that 'you won't dream of security until we live it as a reality and until you depart the land of Islam' will continue to deprive them of sleep."
Zawahri pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mulla Omar, who is spearheading fighting against US-led forces in Afghanistan, calling him the "emir of the faithful".
Zawahri praised the citizen revolts in his native Egypt and other Arab countries, calling on Pakistanis to follow suit: "Shake off the dust of humiliation and overthrow those who have sold you in the slave market to the United States."