CAIRO, Egypt – No. 2 Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri praised insurgents in Iraq, particularly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and called on all Muslims to support them in a video posted Thursday on the Internet.
The video was dated with an Islamic month corresponding to November 2005 — and al-Zawahiri mentions an Oct. 23 earthquake that hit and Afghanistan. But it appeared to be the first time the 28-minute video has been made public.
It was not clear why the video was not released soon after the date it was allegedly filmed. Al-Zawahiri has appeared in at least three videotapes filmed since November, all of them aired on the Al-Jazeera news network. Thursday's video was posted on a Web forum used by Islamic militants to issue public statements and videos.
Reached Wednesday evening, two U.S. counterterrorism officials declined immediate comment.
In the footage, Al-Zawahiri appears sitting, wearing a white turban and a grey robe with a microphone pinned to it. An automatic weapon is leaning against a brown backdrop behind him.
"The Islamic nation must support the heroic mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Iraq, who are fighting on the very front line for the dignity of Islam," Al-Zawahiri said, waving his right hand toward the camera.
"And to my brother mujahedeen in Iraq, I say, Stay firm. Stay together. Your enemy has begun to falter, so don't stop pursuing him untill he flees defeated," he said.
He called on Muslims to support his "beloved brother" Al-Zarqawi, who heads Al Qaeda in Iraq. "I have lived with him up close, and have seen nothing but good from him," Al-Zawahiri said.