Published January 31, 2006
CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a videotape aired Monday that President Bush was a "butcher" and a "failure" because of a deadly U.S. airstrike in Pakistan targeting the bin Laden deputy, and he threatened a new attack on the United States.
A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy, said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the tape, which U.S. intelligence officials were analyzing. The official said the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed Al Qaeda believed it was important to convey that al-Zawahiri is alive.
In Washington, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said the bureau would ask agents around the United States to review ongoing cases and tips in light of the new tape, especially with two major events this week — the State of the Union in Washington and the Super Bowl in Detroit.
Al-Zawahiri, shown in the video wearing white robes and a white turban, said a Jan. 13 airstrike in the eastern village of Damadola killed "innocents," and he said the United States had ignored an offer from Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden for a truce.
"Butcher of Washington, you are not only defeated and a liar, but also a failure. You are a curse on your own nation and you have brought and will bring them only catastrophes and tragedies," he said, referring to Bush. "Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses."
The airstrike hit a building in Damadola, where U.S. intelligence believed al-Zawahiri had been attending an Islamic holiday dinner. The strike killed four Al Qaeda leaders — including a man believed to be al-Zawahiri's son-in-law — but intelligence officials said later they believe al-Zawahiri sent his aides to the dinner in his place.
Thirteen villagers also were killed in the strike, angering many Pakistanis. The attack was believed to have been launched by a Predator drone from Afghanistan, where some 20,000 U.S. troops are based.
"The American planes raided in compliance with Musharraf the traitor and his security apparatus, the slave of the Crusaders and the Jews," he said, referring to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
"In seeking to kill my humble self and four of my brothers, the whole world has discovered the extent of America's lies and failures and the extent of its savagery in fighting Islam and Muslims."
The video was al-Zawahiri's first appearance since the airstrike and came 11 days after the latest audiotape by bin Laden.
The U.S. counterterrorism official noted that the video was disseminated quickly, demonstrating al-Zawahiri's ability to get his message out even faster than bin Laden. That suggests the two are not hiding together and bin Laden may be in a more remote location than his deputy, the official said.
On Jan. 19, Al-Jazeera broadcast an audio message from bin Laden in which he referenced a secret British government memo disclosed in a Nov. 22 newspaper story. But al-Zawahiri's message Monday references the attack that took place just more than two weeks ago.
The last video from al-Zawahiri came Jan. 6, when he called the U.S. decision to withdraw some troops from Iraq a victory for the Islamic world.
The Al-Jazeera newscaster said Monday the network was airing excerpts from the al-Zawahiri tape, and it showed two short segments. It was not immediately known how long the entire tape was.
In the video, al-Zawahiri spoke before a black background. No automatic weapon was visible, unlike past videos by the Al Qaeda deputy in which a gun often appeared leaning next to him. In the bottom left corner, the video had the logo in Arabic and English of Al-Sahab, an Al Qaeda video production company that made some past videos by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.
"My second message is to the American people, who are drowning in illusions. I tell you that Bush and his gang are shedding your blood and wasting your money in frustrated adventures," he said, speaking in a forceful and angry voice.
"The lion of Islam, Sheik Usama bin Laden, may God protect him, offered you a decent exit from your dilemma. But your leaders, who are keen to accumulate wealth, insist on throwing you in battles and killing your souls in Iraq and Afghanistan and — God willing — on your own land."
Al-Zawahiri then vented more fury at the United States and Britain, its main coalition partner in Iraq.
"Your leaders responded to the initiative of sheik Usama, may God protect him, by saying they don't negotiate with terrorists and that they are winning the war on terror. I tell them: You liars, greedy war mongers, who is pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan? Us or you? Whose soldiers are committing suicide because of despair? Us or you?" he said.
"You, American mother, if the Pentagon calls to tell you that your son is coming home in a coffin, then remember George Bush. And you, British wife, if the Defense Department calls you to say that your husband is returning crippled and burnt, remember Tony Blair."
The video comes after bin Laden warned that Al Qaeda is preparing attacks in the United States but offered a truce "with fair conditions" to build Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Al Qaeda leader did not spell out conditions for a truce in the excerpts aired by Al-Jazeera.
U.S. officials said after the bin Laden tape that they had no sign that Al Qaeda was preparing an imminent attack in the United States.
In an Arabic transcription of the entire tape on the Al-Jazeera Web site — but not aired — bin Laden made an oblique reference to how to prevent new attacks on the United States but did not specify if those were conditions for a truce.
The tape was the first message from bin Laden in more than a year. The CIA authenticated the voice on the tape as that of bin Laden. Al-Jazeera said the tape was recorded in the Islamic month that corresponds with December.
The White House firmly rejected bin Laden's suggestion of a negotiated truce.
"We don't negotiate with terrorists," Vice President Dick Cheney said at the time. "I think you have to destroy them."
During the year of silence from bin Laden, al-Zawahiri issued several video and audiotapes, including one claiming Al Qaeda responsibility for the July 7 London bombings.