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(photo credit: AP)
Al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri, in a video posted Thursday on the Internet, praised insurgents in Iraq - particularly Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - and called upon all Muslims to support them.
Although the video was dated with an Islamic month corresponding to November 2005 - and al-Zawahri mentions an October 23 earthquake that hit Pakistan and Afghanistan - it appeared to be the first time the 28-minute video has been made public.
It was not clear why it was not released soon after the date it was allegedly filmed. Al-Zawahri has appeared in at least three videotapes filmed since November, all of which aired on the Al-Jazeera news network. Thursday's video was posted on a Web forum used by Islamic insurgents to issue public statements and videos.
In the footage, al-Zawahri appears sitting, wearing a white turban and a gray robe with a microphone pinned to it. An automatic weapon is leaning against a brown backdrop behind him.
"The Islamic nation must support the heroic mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Iraq, who are fighting on the very front line for the dignity of Islam," al-Zawahri said, waving his right hand toward the camera.
"And to my mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, I say, Stay firm. Stay together. Your enemy has begun to falter, so don't stop pursuing him until he flees defeated," he said.
He called upon Muslims to support his "beloved brother" Al-Zarqawi, who heads al-Qaida in Iraq. "I have lived with him up close, and have seen nothing but good from him," al-Zawahri said.
Al-Zawahri - Osama bin Laden's deputy in al-Qaida, who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan - said he was making the video to mark the fourth anniversary of the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora, in which US forces besieged bin Laden and al-Qaida fighters in mountainous caves of Afghanistan.
He denounced Bush as the "Caesar of Washington" and accused him of lying about progress in the war on terror.
"Bush, son of Bush, eliminating Israel is the duty of every believer," al-Zawahri said. "Beggarly clerics ... and every bankrupt propaganda machine is trying to convince the people to bring change by peaceful means, but the Islamic nation knows that its path is jihad (holy war) and the bearing of arms."
"By God, we're supposed to stick to peaceful means while the enemies of Islam engage in every violent, barbaric and base action and Israel is armed to the teeth with every sort of conventional and non-conventional weapon?" he said.
"If we commit to peaceful action, they will demand we adhere to international laws and treaties that mean nothing to them. If we adhere to that, they will ask us to impose constraint on what they call terrorism and war on Israel. Then if we adhere to that, they will demand we recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it," he said.
He pointed to Israeli opposition to Hamas' entering Palestinian elections. He did not mention Hamas' victory in the voting, a possible indication the video was made before the January elections.
In the last al-Zawahri video, aired on March 4 he congratulated Hamas on its victory and offered support.
Al-Zawahri appeared in two other videos in January. On January 19, bin Laden released an audiotape, parts of which were aired on al-Jazeera. It was the first message from the al-Qaida leader in more than a year.