CAIRO, Egypt – Al Qaeda No 2. Ayman al-Zawahri offered condolences to the victims of a fatal rockslide this month near Cairo that has killed at least 103 people, in a new message released on Friday.
Al-Zawahri said the incident highlights the corruption of Muslim governments, which he described as backed by "Crusading and Zionist powers."
On Sept. 6, giant rocks raced down from a cliff near Cairo, burying entire houses under massive boulders and killing dozens. The tragedy in the Dweiqa slum drew a public outcry and a wave of criticism of the government of U.S. ally Egypt.
Al-Zawahri, who is believed to be in hiding in the rugged and lawless tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border, is an Egyptian national and often speaks of Egyptian and Middle Eastern issues. He was once associated with the militant Egyptian Islamic Jihad group that carried a campaign of violence against President Hosni Mubarak's government.
The almost 6 minute long audio recording was provided by SITE Intelligence Group, a Washington-based monitors of militant messaging.
The Associated Press was not able to independently access the recording, as Web sites that usually carry Al Qaeda's messages remain inaccessible since earlier this month.
Al-Zawahari said the Muslim governments treat their people as though they were burdens and steal their wealth.
"This won't stop unless we work toward changing it. The corruption and the stealing and the foreign presence wont stop unless we stand in its face," al-Zawahri said. "I ask God to quicken our victory and rid of us our corrupt governments."
Al-Zawahri called on the Muslim world to use the holy month of Ramadan as a time to renew its oath to God and work toward erasing corrupt governments and the victory of Muslims everywhere.
The audio track was accompanied by two juxtaposed photographs, one of the white-turbaned and white-robed al-Zawahri and the other of the Dweiqa slum.
The audio message was separate from another Al Qaeda message released on Friday, an hour and a half long video tape marking the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. That video also featured al-Zawahri, who along with other Al Qaeda leaders calls for holy war, or jihad.