WASHINGTON – An audiotape from Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was posted Friday on an Islamic Web site in which he read a poem praising "martyrs of holy war" in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
The tape made no mention of a Jan. 13 U.S. airstrike in Pakistan that was targeting al-Zawahiri and killed four Al Qaeda leaders.
The CIA verified the voice as al-Zawahiri following a technical analysis, an agency official said.
It was unclear when the recording was made, although the poem referred to Afghanistan martyrs in the period during Northern Alliance action against the Taliban that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA official said.
Officials at two U.S. counterterror agencies said the recording does not appear to have been made recently and may even date back years.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.
Al-Zawahiri was not believed to have been among those killed in the Jan. 13 strike. If the tape is new and authentic, it would be al-Zawahiri's first statement since the attack.
The 17-minute tape was posted on an Islamic militant Web forum a day after Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden released his first audiotape in more than a year, threatening new attacks in the United States and offering Americans a conditional truce.
The purported al-Zawahiri tape made no statement, and instead the voice on it was heard reading a long poem honoring "martyrs of jihad," or holy war.
He dedicated the poem to "all Muslim brothers everywhere, to the mujahedeen (holy warrior) brothers in Islam's fortified borderlines against the Zionist-Crusader campaign in Palestine and Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya."
He said the poem had reminded him of colleagues who died in the jihadist cause, mentioning several by name — but not including any of the figures believed killed in the Pakistan strike.
The Web forum where the tape was posted and other similar ones often carry statements from Al Qaeda and other militant groups, but participants also often post old recordings.
The Jan. 13 airstrike hit a building in the Pakistani village of Damadola, where Pakistani authorities suspect Al Qaeda operatives were gathered to plan attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirteen villagers were killed. Officials believe at least four foreign militants also may have died, including a son-in-law of al-Zawahiri.