CAIRO – Al-Qaida's likely next leader says NATO's operations in Libya are meant to topple Moammar Gadhafi so the West can install a puppet government and control the country's oil wealth.
In a 49-minute audio recording, Ayman al-Zawahri, the No. 2 man in al-Qaida, called on Libyans to acquire weapons to use in a guerrilla war against the Western coalition.
Al-Zawahri is widely believed to be a leading candidate to replace bin Laden as head of the group. He is believed to be operating from somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier.
In the recording, al-Zawahri congratulated fellow Egyptians for "jailing Hosni Mubarak, the tyrant, and his sons" and urged the government to sever relations with Israel. Mubarak was forced to resign on Feb. 11 after an 18-day uprising in Egypt, which is one of just two Arab countries to have a peace treaty with Israel. The other is Jordan.
Al-Zawahri called on Egyptians to open the border with the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
And he called on Syrians to continue their uprising to bring down President Bashar Assad's regime.
Al-Qaida has long opposed the regimes of autocratic Arab leaders they view as godless, corrupt and too closely allied with the United States. Al-Qaida figures in recent messages have called for the establishment of Islamic rule to replace their regimes.
However, the Arab uprisings have largely been driven by those calling for freedom, human rights and democracy.