DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – An audiotape that surfaced Friday purportedly by Al Qaeda's (search) second-in-command urged Muslim youths to carry out pre-emptive strikes against the United States and its allies.
The tape aired by Al-Jazeera television identified the speaker as Ayman al-Zawahiri (search), an Egyptian-born confidante of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden (search). Following a technical analysis, a U.S. intelligence official said authorities were able to determine with "high confidence" that the voice was that of al-Zawahiri.
Less than a month ago, a videotape showed al-Zawahiri proclaiming the United States would be defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The tape aired Friday urged young Muslims to fight on even if Al Qaeda leaders were killed or captured.
"You, youth of Islam, this is our message," the speaker said. "If we die or are detained, continue the path after us, and don't betray God and his prophet, and don't knowingly betray the trust."
Dia'a Rashwan, an expert on Islamic militants, played down the significance of such remarks.
"According to his belief, being killed is normal and expected, especially in his case," Rashwan said. "This is not the first time he has said this. It doesn't mean they are close to being captured or killed."
There is a $25 million U.S. bounty for information leading to the death or capture of either bin Laden or al-Zawahiri.
The tape surfaced hours after President Bush and Sen. John Kerry debated the U.S. war on terror and the search for bin Laden. The date the audiotape was made could not be determined from the segments aired.
The audiotape threatened interests of the United States and many of its allies, and urged young Muslims not to hesitate in acting against them.
"The youth must not wait for anyone and must begin resisting from now — and take experience and lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and Chechnya," the speaker said.
Rashwan said al-Zawahiri's comments appeared to be calling for a new strategy of pre-emptive strikes.
"He's saying Muslims should attack before their countries are occupied. He is calling for action, instead of reaction," Rashwan said.
The speaker generally sounded more upbeat than previous tapes attributed to al-Zawahiri.
"The interests of the Americans, British, Australians, French, Polish, Norwegians, South Koreans and Japanese are spread everywhere," the speaker said. "We must not wait more ... or we will be devoured one country after the other."
The tape said the countries cited had taken part in occupying Afghanistan or Iraq or Chechnya and had given Israel "means of survival."
Norway's Justice Minister, Odd Einar Doerum, said the tape would be evaluated by his country's intelligence service. "We take every threat seriously and will investigate," he said on the state radio network NRK.
An Al-Jazeera producer said the tape was "supposedly received today," by the usual means, which he refused to discuss. The station broadcast almost four minutes in two clips of a longer recording, and, as usual, was not planning to air the full tape.
Station officials would not comment on the contents of unaired segments.