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Tape: Zawahiri Purportedly Claims Control in Afghanistan

Al Qaeda's deputy leader said in an audiotape aired Saturday that Taliban's fighters control large areas in Afghanistan and are fighting American forces and the U.S-backed Afghan government.

It was not clear when the tape purportedly by Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri was recorded. Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television, which aired about 30 seconds of the tape, said al-Zawahiri did not refer to any new events in the speech.

The tape's authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but the voice resembled that of al-Zawahiri's confirmed in past recordings.

Al-Zawahiri said the Taliban movement is controlling large sectors of east and south Afghanistan and are"waging a guerrilla war against the crusaders and their cronies."

The last tape by al-Zawahiri emerged on Dec. 11, though it was believed to have been recorded in mid-September. In it, the Egyptian-born militant urged all Muslims to take up arms to fight against "the Cross and Zionism" and warned that the Islamic world had "no hope for victory" until all Muslims signed on to the Al Qaeda-led jihad.

That tape dealt with similar issues as the recording aired Saturday. In the Dec. 11 tape, Al-Zawahiri credits toppled Taliban leader Mullah Omar with leading a three-year campaign "against the Crusaders and apostates in Afghanistan" and purportedly taking control of "extensive parts of eastern and western Afghanistan."

Mullah Omar is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, where Taliban forces continue to launch regular attacks but do not control large swaths of territory.

U.S.-led forces toppled the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001 when it refused to turn over bin Laden and stop providing a haven to the group blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Al-Zawahiri appeared about eight times this year to address Al Qaeda followers and other Muslim militants while bin Laden has not appeared in a video for more than a year. In a video recorded in September, al-Zawahiri said bin Laden is still alive.