In his first direct reference to India and Pakistan in a common message, Ayman al-Zawahiri, considered to be al-Qaeda’s second in command after Osama Bin Laden, has lashed out at US President George W Bush accusing him of giving a “strong impetus” to India’s nuclear programme while “doling out orders” to Pakistan.
In a video released on a jihadist website, Zawahiri has urged the people of Pakistan to “remove this traitor (Pak President Pervez Musharraf).”
Zawahiri has pointed to the Bush visit in March to New Delhi during which he signed the landmark nuclear cooperation agreement wih India. “He (Bush) gives a strong impetus to the Indian nuclear programme while doling out orders to Pakistan,” the al-Qaeda leader said yesterday. He also slammed Musharraf for his support to the US-led war on terror: “Musharraf is fighting Islam in Pakistan …Threatens national security in Pakistan…Has placed Pakistan’s nuclear programme under American, therefore, Jewish and Indian control…I call on the people of Pakistan to work to remove this traitor from power…And I call on every officer and soldier in the Pakistani Army to disobey their commanders’ orders to kill Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
In the third message from the organisation in a week, Zawahiri said “Musharraf was prepared to flee abroad where he had bank accounts when the popular revolution breaks out.” Zawahiri, in his mid-50s, was former head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad before he merged with al-Qaeda.
According to the video, the “message to the people of Pakistan” was recorded after the third anniversary of the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime on April 9, 2003.
In another video broadcast on the Internet today, an al-Qaeda member called on “Afghan Arabs” to take on US forces there. “I call on the fighters who fought the Russians on this sacred ground to return to the country and to join up with Sheikh Osama bin Laden and their brothers,” Saudi Mohammad al-Qahtani said. Qahtani was one of four al-Qaeda members who escaped from the US Bagram airbase in Afghanistan last July.