CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda's No. 2 issued a new videotape on Wednesday calling for Pakistanis to join the jihad, or holy war, in revenge for the attack by Pakistan's army on a radical mosque.
Ayman al-Zawahiri's 4 minutes and 24 address was entitled "The Aggression against Lal Masjid" and entirely focused on the recent clashes between Islamic students and Pakistan's army at the mosque.
The video was released by Al Qaeda's multimedia branch, as-Sahab. Its authenticity could not immediately be confirmed, but two U.S.-based terrorism monitoring groups also reported it.
"Muslims of Pakistan: your salvation is only through Jihad," or holy war, al-Zawahiri said in the video, which was subtitled in English.
"Rigged elections will not save you, politics will not save you, and bargaining, bootlicking, negotiations with the criminals, and political maneuvers will not save you," a bespectacled and white-clad al-Zawahiri said.
"Musharraf and his hunting dogs have rubbed your honor in the dirt in the service of the Crusaders and the Jews," he said.
Al Qaeda's new video came as Pakistani commandos cleared the warren-like Red Mosque complex of its last die-hard defenders Wednesday and the army said it counted the bodies of 73 suspected militants.
The commandos went in after unsuccessful attempts to get the mosque's militants to surrender to a weeklong siege mounted by the government following deadly street clashes in Islamabad with armed supporters of the mosque on July 3.
The extremists had been using the mosque as a base to send out radicalized students to enforce their version of Islamic morality, including abducting alleged prostitutes and trying to "re-educate" them at the compound.
Some 106 people have been killed overall since the violence began. They include 10 soldiers, one police ranger and several civilians who died in the crossfire. The dead included the mosque's pro-Taliban cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi.
Al-Zawahiri described the cleric's death as a "dirty, despicable crime committed by Pakistani military intelligence" at the orders of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
"This crime can only be washed away by repentance or blood," said Usama bin Laden's deputy, who is believed to be hiding in the hinterland on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border along with the Al Qaeda chief.