ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A purported Al Qaeda commander has accused Shiite Muslims of fighting alongside American forces in Iraq and claimed that mujahedeen would crush foreign troops in Afghanistan.
A video issued Friday by Al Qaeda's media wing, al-Sahab, shows an interview with a bearded man with a white turban identified as Abu Laith al-Libi and describes him as an Al Qaeda leader in Khorasan, or Afghanistan.
Pakistani counterterrorism officials say al-Libi is Libyan and has served as an Al Qaeda spokesman and commander in eastern Afghanistan but have no information on his current whereabouts, which are not disclosed in the 45-minute video.
It was released by IntelCenter, a U.S. government contractor that monitors Al Qaeda messaging. It describes it as al-Libi's first video appearance since 2005.
In the interview, Al-Libi defends the conduct of Sunni Muslim mujahedeen in Iraq involved in sectarian fighting with Shiites, whom he accuses of fighting "shoulder to shoulder alongside the Americans."
"Everyone knows and has seen for himself that were it not for the Shiites revealing their ugly face and making themselves shields for the American troops, the Americans would not have persisted in Iraq for such a long time," says al-Libi, whose name means 'the Libyan' in Arabic. The video provides English language subtitles.
Asked about Afghanistan, al-Libi claims "only crumbs" of the Western military machine that invaded the country more than five years ago remain and that mujahedeen are poised to "finish off the remnants of the enemy's force and completely crush him."
"We are today experiencing mountains of realistic, palpable hopes, while our enemy is experiencing mountains of weakness, fear and apprehension. As soon as the mujahideen appear, he flees from them," al-Libi says.
There are currently about 47,000 U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, by far the highest number since the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2001 that ousted the hardline Taliban regime for hosting Al Qaeda.
Since 2006, violence has escalated sharply in Afghanistan. Militants have stepped up attacks but also sustained high casualties. NATO maintains that an anticipated militant offensive this spring has failed to materialize.