Al Qaeda intensified its propaganda campaign Thursday by issuing its third video since the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In a lengthy commentary, Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Muslims to fight the United States and its allies, targeting the prospect of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur. Later on Thursday, Al Qaeda released a new recording of Osama bin Laden declaring war on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan's Army.
The latest video is an 80-minute compilation of old audio clips from bin Laden and Western analysts, interspersed with narration by Al Qaeda leaders, such as Dr. Zawahiri and Mustafa al-Yazid, known as Sheikh Saeed, reports Reuters.
Zawahri gives what appears to be a new commentary, explaining how the United States was being defeated by Muslims around the world.
"What they claim is the strongest power in the history of mankind is today being defeated in front of the Muslim vanguard of jihad six years after New York and Washington," said Zawahri, who was wearing a white turban and speaking in front of a packed bookcase. An assault rifle leant against it.
Zawahiri also called on Muslims in Sudan to fight African Union and UN peacekeepers in war-torn Darfur, saying that Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had abandoned his Muslim brothers and no longer deserved their protection. This is not the first time that Al Qaeda has called for a jihad against international peacekeepers in Darfur. Last year, Zawahiri made a similar call to arms. In July, the Sudan Tribune reported on the alleged links between Al Qaeda and the Sudanese government. Citing classified documents, the Tribune reported that the Sudanese government had "decided to lift restriction on Al Qaeda members in the country in return for their help in fighting peacekeepers in Darfur."
The document requests all government agencies to allow "foreign Jihadis who came to Sudan with Osama Bin Laden in 1994 to resume their political activities in Sudan given the circumstances surrounding foreign intervention in Darfur to support armed forces and the people of Sudan to fight Zionist enemies".
The decision outlines certain steps to be taken to allow Al-Qaeda to operate in Sudan such as unfreezing their bank accounts and returning all properties confiscated in 1996.
A copy of the order was sent to President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, Head of Security Services and a representative of Al-Qaeda in Sudan.
Bin Laden's presence in Sudan was enabled in the mid-1990s by Hassan al-Turabi, the country's leading Islamist, who was widely regarded at the time as the real (and unelected) power behind the presidency, said analyst Andrew McGregor recently in the Terrorism Monitor. "Times have changed in Sudan, however ... Most Sudanese do not admire the Wahhabist-style Islam espoused by al-Qaeda. Their Islam is based on the proud Sufi lodges, whose form of worship is violently opposed by al-Qaeda."
Al Qaeda's threats to General Musharraf are not new either. In July, Zawahiri condemned Pakistan's military assault on Islamic fighters who took over the Red Mosque in Islamabad this summer. He later praised one of the militants' leaders, Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in the fighting, reports the Associated Press. In the new bin Laden recording, in which his voice is heard over already-released footage, the Al Qaeda leader calls Musharraf an "infidel."
The storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July "demonstrated Musharraf's insistence on continuing his loyalty, submissiveness and aid to America against the Muslims ... and makes armed rebellion against him and removing him obligatory," bin Laden said in the message.
"So when the capability is there, it is obligatory to rebel against the apostate ruler, as is the case now," he said, according to a transcript released by Laura Mansfield, a U.S. terrorism expert who monitors militant message traffic.
Bin Laden and Zawahiri are thought to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, where many analysts believe they have rebuilt Al Qaeda's core leadership, added the AP.
The Agence France-Presse reports that Pakistan has dismissed the threat to Musharraf, who has escaped two Al Qaeda assassination attempts since he became a close ally of Washington in the so-called war on terror. Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad told AFP, "We are already committed to fighting extremists and terrorists – there is no change in our policy.... If someone is hurling threats at us, that is their view. The whole nation is behind us and the Pakistani Army is a national institution." Nevertheless, the threats add to the difficulties facing Musharraf, who announced this week that he will seek reelection on Oct. 6, and promised to shed his Army uniform if he wins.
Musharraf has been embroiled in crisis since March, when he tried to sack the country's independent-minded chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was later reinstated after leading a mass protest campaign.
In a video earlier this month, Bin Laden sought to make Americans sympathetic to his cause by listing the political problems within the US. RadioFreeEurope reported that he cited issues as far reaching as global warming and the subprime mortgage crisis.
But it's the issues bin Laden uses to span the partisan divide, and how he uses them, that get him into real trouble. His three main talking points are global warming, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the Democratic Party's failure to present a coherent, united stance in opposition to the Iraq war. Here's what we hear on each:
"The entire human race is in danger because of global warming caused in large part by emissions from the factories of large corporations."
"Many of you are buckling beneath high-interest debts, insane taxes, and mortgages...."
"As for why the Democrats have failed to stop the war, I state that it is the same reason former President [John F.] Kennedy was unable to end the war in Vietnam -- those with real power and influence are the capitalists...."
Nevertheless, polls are showing a decline in support for Al-Qaeda and its brand of radical Islam, stated Karen Hughes, US undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs, in an article for the Kuwait Times. "Six years after September 11, good and decent people of many faiths and cultures are increasingly rejecting his brutal methods," she claimed, citing polls showing a drop in support for terrorist tactics in seven of eight predominantly Muslim countries.
CNN reports on another poll suggesting that a majority of Americans - 54 percent - think the US will be unable to capture or kill the Al Qaeda leader. Results from the latest poll show a drastic shift from previous years, when a commanding majority of Americans believed the US would apprehend bin Laden.
In 2001, 78 percent of Americans were confident bin Laden would be captured or killed, compared to 66 percent in 2004 and 58 percent in 2006.