NEW YORK – A purported Al Qaeda newscast that promises weekly updates made its online debut with a report read by a masked man that included video of Hurricane Katrina (search) — subtitled "divine punishment" — and a message from the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq (search).
The first newscast of the Voice of the Caliphate (search), appeared on Sept. 21 showing a masked man wearing a black shirt reading the bulletin with an automatic rifle on his right side and a copy of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, on his left side.
The man congratulated Palestinians on Israel's recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The video also aired parts of an audio recently made by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq group, in which he declared war on Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority.
When the announcer read a report on Hurricane Katrina, footage from the area appeared with a subtitle in Arabic reading: "Hurricane Katrina: divine punishment."
The bulletin by the Voice of the Caliphate, which is run by the Global Islamic Media Front, appeared on a Web site usually used by militant groups to post statements or videos. According to ads on the site, the bulletins will be weekly.
Attempts by The Associated Press to open the Web sites hosting the newscast Tuesday were unsuccessful, indicating they might have been taken down. It is not uncommon for such postings to be taken down by Internet companies.
The accuracy of the video and whether it was indeed the work or Al Qaeda could not be independently verified.
Militant groups, including Al Qaeda, have in the past aired scores of videos on Web sites but The Voice of the Caliphate will be the first to appear on weekly basis if it continues. In Islam, the caliphate is the religious leadership.
An ad about The Voice of the Caliphate placed on another Islamic Web site showed flames burning logos of Arab and international news organizations such as Al-Arabiya, CNN and Fox News. "An accurate word in the face of injustice," the ad read.
Islamic Web sites commonly carry video of attacks on U.S. troops, whether by car bombs or roadside bombs, but the authenticity can rarely be verified.
Al-Zarqawi's group claims to have a media section that releases videos and statements almost daily. They are signed by the group's spokesman, Abu Maysara al-Iraqi. Videos and audiotapes of bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri also surface on Islamic Web sites.