Possible al-Qaida tape says America targeting Islam

Monday, September 29, 2003

CAIRO, Egypt -- An audiotape attributed to al-Qaida deputy Ayman al-Zawahri and broadcast on Al-Jazeera satellite television Sunday accused the United States of trying to abolish Islam.

The tape appeared to be recent, as the speaker referred to a visit by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to India earlier this month and the Sept. 6 resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The tape was of poor quality, but the voice sounded like al-Zawahri's. There was no immediate way to confirm its authenticity.

"The crusade camp that is led by America ... is targeting Islam and Muslims, even if it claims that it is fighting terrorism. ... This campaign is seeking to abolish Islam as a doctrine and a law," the speaker said.

He urged Muslims to "resist this Jewish crusade."

Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout told The Associated Press the station received a telephone call from an unknown person saying they had a recording "that is of concern to you" and suggested the station tape the rest of the phone call.

Ballout would not say when the call was received.

He said the station would broadcast only portions of the tape.

"I thus call for jihad against this campaign that seeks to end Islam as a doctrine and law and turn us into a herd that follows their world of Washington, Tel Aviv and London," the speaker said.

The speaker also referred to a U.S. Congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Parts of the report not released to the public reportedly examined Saudi connections to al-Qaida.

"The report that Congress wrote about the incidents of September 11 adopted a call to end the Saudi government and rewrite the holy Quran claiming that it contains verses that call for hating Jews and Christians," the speaker said. "To this extent they have become arrogant and criminal."

He also criticized Israelis as arrogant, and called Sharon "the killer of Muslims and desecrator of the sanctity of al-Aqsa mosque."

"His visit to India and the deals that he made with India ... such idiocy," the voice said.

Al-Jazeera has been criticized by the United States for airing tapes from al-Qaida leaders, Saddam Hussein and groups that claim responsibility for attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The U.S. government says such tapes might contain coded messages and incite more terror attacks.

"Our editing policy, which is directly connected to our editorial policy, is quite clear," Ballout said. "We're a news organization. We're in the business of disseminating news and information to our audience."

On Sept. 10, Al-Jazeera aired a videotape showing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri walking on a rocky mountainside, the first images of the men in two years. The CIA said the men's voices on the accompanying audiotape were probably authentic.

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