Published December 12, 2005
CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri has praised Taliban leader Mullah Omar for winning back control of large regions of Afghanistan and urged Muslims to wage holy war against the West, according to a tape that surfaced on Sunday.
The 48-minute tape, entitled "Impediments to Jihad" and containing a still photo of a white-turbaned al-Zawahiri, was believed to have been made at about the same time as a Sept. 19 video attributed to the Al Qaeda deputy.
The latest tape, which carries English subtitles and could not be immediately authenticated, was obtained by IntelCenter, a government contractor that does support work for the U.S. intelligence community.
In it, al-Zawahiri credited Mullah Omar with leading a three-year campaign "against the Crusaders and apostates in Afghanistan" and taking control of "extensive parts of eastern and western Afghanistan."
The hard-line Taliban regime was toppled by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 when it refused to turn over Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden and stop offering a haven to the group following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.
The latest tape appeared to be a rallying call to Muslims to attack Western interests.
It cited various militant campaigns and attacks for Muslims to follow, such as the Palestinian resistance against the Israelis in the Gaza Strip, opposition by anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks carried out by 19 plane hijackers.
"The key to victory is in our hands, and in turn, the primary cause of defeat is in ourselves," it said.
Ben Venzke, chief executive at the IntelCenter, said the tape was produced by the shadowy al-Sahab Media Production House, a purported Al Qaeda media organization. But he declined to say how his organization obtained it, citing confidentiality agreements with the U.S. government.
Venzke said al-Zawahiri's Sept. 19 video was unique for giving increased prominence to the Taliban.
"But this latest one even goes beyond that with al-Zawahiri pledging allegiance to the Taliban," he said. "The whole thing is an address to Muslims, saying armed jihad and struggle is the only way and that they have to suffer to do it."
Al-Zawahiri also bemoaned the lack of support for Al Qaeda-linked militants in Saudi Arabia, saying the mujahedeen had suffered "defeat" amid a high-profile anti-terror campaign by Saudi authorities.
"These idolatrous regimes achieve victory over us because each one of us wants to save his own skin and avoid harm for himself," al-Zawahiri said on the tape.
"As long as this malignant illness continues to survive within us, there is no hope for victory and there can only be more defeats, tragedies, disasters and betrayals."
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, has been struck by multiple bombings and attacks since 2003 and has since waged a fierce crackdown against militants.
Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden are believed to be hiding in the mountains along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border. Pakistani troops are cooperating with the United States in the search for the pair.