An American who allegedly joined Al Qaeda appeared in a videotape along with the terror group's deputy leader on Saturday, calling on Americans to covert to Islam and for U.S. soldiers to switch sides in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
The 48-minute video, posted on an Islamic militant Web site, had footage of Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri and of Adam Yehiye Gadahn, a 28-year-old American who the FBI believes attended Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and served as an Al Qaeda translator.
It was the second time Gadahn has appeared in the same video with al-Zawahiri. In a July 7 video marking the one-year anniversary of bombings against the London transit system, Gadahn appeared briefly, saying no Muslim should "shed tears" for Westerners killed by Al Qaeda attacks.
Saturday's message came days before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
Gadahn spoke for nearly the entire video, wearing white robes and a white turban, sitting in front of a desk with a computer and Islamic religious books in a room with a white wall. He delivered a lecture on Islam and "errors" in Christianity and Judaism, and the video included no direct threats of terror attacks.
He said the United States was losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and addressed U.S. soldiers who he said were fighting President George W. Bush's "crusades."
"Instead of killing yourself for Bush ... why not surrender to the truth (of Islam), escape from the unbedlieving army and join the winning side. Time is running out so make the right choice before it's too late," he said.
Al-Zawahri gave only a brief introduction to the video, calling on Americans to convert to Islam. "To the American people and the people of the West in general ... God sent his Prophet Muhammad with guidance and the religion of truth ... and sent him as a herald," he said.
Little is known about the degree of Gadahn's role with Al Qaeda. A resident of California who converted to Islam, he disappeared soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. In 2004, the FBI announced it was seeking Gadahn in connection with possible terrorist threats against the United States, though it said it did not have information linking him to any specific terrorist activities.
But Saturday's video — and the length of Gadahn's speech — suggested Al Qaeda found in him someone who could direcly address the American people — in idiom they are familiar with.
"You know that if you die as an unbeliever in battle against the Muslims you're going straight to Hell without passing 'Go,"' Gadahn said, addressing American soldiers. "You know you're considered by Bush and his bunch of warmongers as nothing more than expendible cannon fodder ... You know they couldn't care less about your safety and well-being."
"We send a special invitation (to convert to Islam) to all of you fighting Bush's crusader pipedream in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever else 'W' has sent you to die. You know the war can't be won," he said, using Bush's nickname.
Gadahn and al-Zawahiri appeared in separate pieces of footage in the video, which was released by Al Qaeda's production wing, As-Sahab. Gadahn spoke with his face uncovered, resembling FBI photos, with his name and nom de guerre — "Azzam the American" — written in titles in Arabic and English next to him. Arabic subtitles translated his comments.
Besides the July 7 video, Gadahn is believed to be a masked figure who appeared in two previous videos not officially from Al Qaeda, given to the American television network ABC in Pakistan in 2004 and a few days before Sept. 11, 2005.
In the 2005 tape, the speaker — who had black cloth draped over his face, leaving only his eyes visible — threatened new terror attacks in Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia. The 2004 tape praised the Sept. 11 attacks and said a new wave of attacks could come at any moment.
Much of Gadahn's speech in Saturday's video were dedicated to urging American's to convert to Islam.
"It is time for the unbelievers to discard these incoherent and illogical beliefs," he said. "Isn't it the time for the Christians, Jews, Buddhists and atheists to cast off the cloak of the spiritual darkness which enshrouds them and emerge into the light of Islam?"
He said Islam will prevail "whether Bush likes it or not" and described the West as "the civilization which enslaved Africa, slaughtered native Americans, fired bombs at ... Tokyo and (the Iraqi city of) Fallujah and nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
The video had been advertised on militant Web sites for several days before it appeared Saturday. Al-Zawahiri last appeared in a video on July 27, calling for Muslims to unite in a holy war against Israel and to join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza.