CAIRO – Al Qaeda's deputy leader in a video released Sunday paid tribute to a senior militant who was held in U.S. secret prisons and once gave information about links between the terror group and Iraq that was later deemed false.
In his 10-minute video, Ayman al-Zawahri eulogized Ali Mohammed Abdel-Aziz al-Fakheri, a Libyan militant with the nom de guerre of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The militant reportedly hanged himself with bedsheets in his prison cell in Libya in May, according to a newspaper with ties to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son.
Al-Libi, which means Libyan in Arabic, was captured in Pakistan in 2001 and later sent to Egypt under the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, where he was reportedly tortured and then handed over to Libya.
In the video, Al-Zawahri, dressed in a white traditional Arab robe and white turban, accused President Barack Obama of killing al-Libi and demanded the U.S. "apologize and pay financial and moral compensation" for those who have been detained in secret prisons.
"This is the least to be accepted from you and from your government," al-Zawarhi said, addressing Obama.
Al Qaeda 's no. 2 leader said the U.S. and Arab governments working with Washington tortured al-Libi before eventually handing him over to Libya "to carry on the torture."
Al-Libi was then killed, al-Zawahri said, "on behalf of the American criminal monster, who fools us as the smiling Obama who seeks peace and the defender of human rights."
Many experts believe that Al Qaeda is struggling in the face of Obama's popularity in the Muslim world — especially compared to his predecessor, George W. Bush — and the terror network has frequently sought to portray Obama's policies as a mere extension of Bush's.
Under interrogation in Egypt, al-Libi said Iraq, which was then still ruled by Saddam Hussein, had agreed to provide Al Qaeda with training in chemical and biological weapons, according to a 2006 Senate intelligence report. However, in 2002 memos, U.S. defense intelligence officials doubted al-Libi's information, saying he was likely misleading his interrogators.
In 2006, reports concluded that information on Iraqi links with Al Qaeda was not credible. But al-Libi's information had already been used by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in his February 2003 speech at the United Nations laying out U.S. reasons for the planned invasion of Iraq.
Al-Zawahri also reiterated in the video his previous allegations that Washington still runs clandestine jails around the world, and called U.S. officials "murderers, criminals, vampires."
"You will bleed your blood and drain your economy till you stop your crimes you haughty arrogant (people), and we will, God willing, avenge the killing of each Mujahid, widow and orphan Muslim," he said.
The video's authenticity could not be independently verified. But it appeared on an Islamic Web site commonly used by militants and had the logo of the terror network's As-Sahab media production wing.
Most of Al Qaeda's leadership, including al-Zawahri, is believed to be hiding in the rugged, mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.