Al-Qaida No. 2 belittles Turkish aid to Palestinians, says Ankara kills Muslims in Afghanistan

CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's No. 2 offered his condolences in an audio message issued Sunday for the nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists killed in a confrontation with Israeli commandos, but slammed the Turkish government for its support of Israel.

The 20-minute Arabic language recording from Ayman al-Zawahri, which was posted on a website frequently used by militants, is the latest effort by al-Qaida to expand its message to Muslims beyond the Arab world.

The Egyptian-born al-Zawahri called on the Turkish people to pressure their government to cut its military and economic ties with Israel and pull its forces out of Afghanistan, where Turkish troops serve as part of the NATO mission.

"The Turkish government shows sympathy with the Palestinians through statements or sending some relief aid, but actually it recognizes Israel, engages in trade, carries out military training and shares information with it," he said.

"The change will come when the Turkish people urge their government to stop cooperating with Israel ... or taking part in killing Muslims in Afghanistan," he added.

Turkey was once Israel's strongest ally in the Muslim world, with close military ties and a vigorous bilateral trade. In the wake of the 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, however, ties between the two countries began to chill.

They received another blow in May from Israel's raid on an aid flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip that left nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists dead. Ankara has demanded Israel apologize for the raid; the Jewish state so far has refused to do so.

"The Turkish government issues statements against Israel, but at the same time commits the same Jewish crimes but against the Muslim mujahedeen in Afghanistan, burning their houses, demolishing their villages and even assuming the leadership of NATO there," al-Zawahri said.

In recent years, al-Qaida has started issuing statements addressing Muslims beyond the terror group's traditional areas of interest in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Arab world.