CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda (search) deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri (search) said in a statement broadcast Monday that his terror network carried out the July 7 London bombings (search), marking the group's first direct claim of responsibility for the attacks that killed 52 people.
The Egyptian-born militant also criticized the legitimacy of Sunday's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan and condemned Pakistan — the one-time ally of Afghanistan's deposed Taliban regime — for forging strong ties with the United States.
"The blessed London attack was one which Al Qaeda was honored to launch against the British Crusader's arrogance and against the American Crusader aggression on the Islamic nation for 100 years," al-Zawahri said in the tape aired on Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.
"In their final testament, the heroic brothers in the London attacks ... provided great lessons to the Islamic nation and Muslims in Pakistan to oppose the infidels," said al-Zawahri, who wore a black turban and white shirt and spoke to someone off-camera who was interviewing him. The attacks also killed the four bombers.
"This blessed attack revealed the real hypocritical face of the West," said the bushy gray bearded al-Zawahri in his latest tape, which included English subtitles and credits saying it was produced and translated by al-Sahab Media Production House (search), a shadowy purported Al Qaeda media organization.
While there was no immediate way to verify al-Zawahri's claim, the attacks on three London underground stations and a double-decker bus bore all the hallmarks of the terror group.
U.S. intelligence is reviewing the new tape from al-Zawahri, who is thought to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
A counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said that it remains unclear whether Al Qaeda planned or directed the London attacks, as opposed to inspiring them.
The official said the message appears to be an attempt to intimidate and noted the organization has recently increased the volume of its messages, considered propaganda by U.S. intelligence.
A spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police had no comment on al-Zawahri's latest tape.
The tape, only five minutes of which were shown, appeared to have been made recently as al-Zawahri referred several times to Sunday's elections in Afghanistan.
"Thieves and warlords are controlling affairs in (Afghanistan), where international monitors can't observe more than 10 constituencies even if they wanted to," al-Zawahri said.
Al-Zawahri also slammed Iraq's January elections and criticized the United Nations for praising the U.S. running of the vote.
"They (the Americans) obtained a forged testimony from the United Nations, which monitored nothing except for theatrical constituencies in some towns," he said.
Al-Jazeera did not air the rest of the tape, but an anchorman said al-Zawahri claimed the United States and Britain were not revealing the true number of their soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq.