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Al Qaeda Leader to Muslims: Help Quake Victims

Al Qaeda's deputy leader called on Muslims (search) to put aside criticism of Pakistan's president and give aid to the victims of the massive earthquake that devastated Kashmir this month, according to a videotape broadcast Sunday.

"You should send as much aid as you can to the victims, regardless of [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf's relations with the Americans," al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri (search), said in the videotape aired by al-Jazeera.

Previously al-Zawahiri has castigated Musharraf as a "traitor" to the Muslim nation and called for his overthrow. Pakistani troops are cooperating with the United States in the search for al-Zawahiri and al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden (search), who are believed to be hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

"Muslims should extend a hand of help to their Pakistani brothers and even rush to do that however they can," al-Zawahiri said on the brief tape.

Neither Pakistan's Foreign Ministry nor Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed would comment on al Qaeda's appeal and its authenticity could not be confirmed.

As is his trademark, al-Zawahiri made the tape with an assault rifle leaning against the background.

Al-Jazeera did not say how it received the tape, which could have been aimed at laying to rest rumors that al-Zawahiri was killed or wounded in the Oct. 8 earthquake.

Al-Zawahiri said he wished he himself could take part in the relief effort for the victims. About 79,000 people are believed to have died in the quake, which destroyed the homes of an estimated 3.3 million people.

"How much I and my brothers wish to be with you, dear brothers, but America's agents are preventing us from helping our Muslim brothers at a time of need," he said.

The United States is offering up to $25 million for information leading to al-Zawahiri's death or capture.