CAIRO – CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader on Wednesday made a thinly veiled call on Pakistanis to rise up against their government over what he said was the "failure" of authorities there to provide relief to flood victims.
In a video posted on militant websites, Ayman al-Zawahri also accused the Islamabad government of corruption, saying Pakistani officials were only interested in lining their pockets and not concerned about the fate of the country or its people.
However, the al-Qaida No. 2 placed some of the blame on the Pakistani people, saying their apathy is at least partially responsible for the "deteriorating conditions and corrupt state of affairs" in the country.
Massive floods in Pakistan have affected some 20 million people, submerging thousands of villages, killing around 1,500 people and robbing farmers of crops about to be harvested.
"The silence of our people in Pakistan toward these corrupt corrupters is the reason for this obvious inability and failure to offer them relief," the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri said.
"It is the cause of the catastrophes which have befallen Pakistan. The primary concern of the ruling class in the government and army of Pakistan is filling their domestic and foreign bank accounts with dollars; and as far as they are concerned, Pakistan and its people can go to hell," he said.
Al-Zawahri directed his harshest criticism at Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, describing him as a "thief" too preoccupied with mending his ties with the West to care about flood victims at home.
In a response to the video, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley noted that al-Zawahri's organization has supported attacks on a government trying to marshal aid for the flood victims.
"I think it's choice that the co-leader of a terrorist organization, having supported attacks against the Pakistani government at the very time that it was providing support and assistance to its own people, demonstrates what Zawahri's true intentions are and what al-Qaida's true intentions are," he told reporters in Washington.
Al-Zawahri, along with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, is believed to be hiding in Pakistan's remote and lawless tribal areas close to the border with Afghanistan where many analysts believe they have rebuilt al-Qaida's core leadership.
Pakistan has waged multiple army offensives throughout the area, targeting homegrown militants fighting the government and aiding the Taliban in their fight against U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.