CAIRO – An audiotape purportedly from Usama bin Laden's (search) deputy in Al Qaeda, aired on Arab television Friday, warned that the terror group would target Americans "in their homeland" and would drive U.S. forces from bases in the region.
The pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera broadcast excerpts from a 10-minute tape it said was recorded by Ayman al-Zawahri (search), the No. 2 figure in Al Qaeda. The channel's editors said they received the tape earlier Friday through the mail.
The speaker on the tape, whose voice resembled al-Zawahri's, mentioned a visit to Iraq by U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search) — which took place in late October. The speaker did not mention last weekend's capture of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The speaker also denied that the resistance U.S. troops are facing in Iraq comes mainly from Saddam loyalists. He said the resistance fighters were "holy warriors."
"It is a real and authentic holy war of the Iraqi people," he said.
The speaker noted that two years have passed since the battle of Tora Bora, a major clash between U.S.-led forces and Al Qaeda (search) fighters in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
"Two years after Tora Bora, the American bloodshed started to increase in Iraq, and the Americans have become unable to defend themselves or even defend their big criminals such as Wolfowitz," he said.
He was referring to an Oct. 26 rocket attack that barraged the Baghdad hotel where Wolfowitz was staying. A U.S. colonel was killed in that attack, and Wolfowitz escaped unharmed.
"We are still chasing the Americans and their allies everywhere, even in their homeland," he said.
The weeks before and after the rocket attack on Wolfowitz saw an upsurge in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq — making November the bloodiest month for U.S. forces since the fall of Saddam. Attacks lessened as the U.S. military launched an offensive in late November. Violence has continued after Saddam's capture on Dec. 13.
Al-Jazeera's newscaster quoted the tape as saying: "Those renegades who offered the Americans military bases and support to kill Muslims should prepare for the day of settling scores because the Americans are ready to flee."
Montasser el-Zayat, an Egyptian lawyer who knows al-Zawahri, heard the tape and said it was undoubtedly al-Zawahri's voice.
El-Zayat spent three years in an Egyptian prison with al-Zawahri in the early 1980s on charges related to President Anwar Sadat's 1981 assassination.