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Zawahri urges attacks on oil targets

Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri has urged militants to attack oil targets in Muslim states.

DUBAI – Al Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri was speaking in a video interview posted on an Islamist Web site on Wednesday. Arabic television Al Jazeera said later it had aired excerpts from the same interview on September 19, but had excluded some sections, including the threat to oil targets.

«I call on mujahideen to concentrate their attacks on Muslims’ stolen oil, most of the revenues of which go to the enemies of Islam while most of what they leave is seized by the thieves who rule our countries,» Zawahri said.

In other remarks not previously distributed, Zawahri said Osama bin Laden was still leading al Qaeda’s war on the West.

The last public statement from bin Laden himself was in an audiotape issued in December 2004 when he urged Muslims to wage holy war against U.S. forces and the government in Iraq.

Zawahri’s remarks were said by his off-camera interviewer to have been recorded to mark the fourth anniversary of al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

It was not clear why the interview had been posted on the Internet so long after Al Jazeera had broadcast parts of it.

«I bring a message of joy to all Muslims and mujahideen that al Qaeda is spreading, expanding and strengthening. Its prince Sheikh Osama bin Laden is still leading its jihad (holy war),» Zawahri said in the lengthy interview.

«GOD’S PROTECTION»: Asked why U.S. forces had failed to capture bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who are thought to have been hiding near the Afghan-Pakistani border since 2001, Zawahri said:

«The main reason is God’s protection. The second reason is that Muslims opened their hearts and homes to the mujahideen. They took them in and protected them despite all risks.»

In Washington, a U.S. counter-terrorism official said: «This is an old tape. It’s nothing new.»

«They (al Qaeda) have got a fairly sophisticated propaganda effort under way trying to demonstrate that they’re still a force to be reckoned with,» he added.

Zawahri said the United States had been defeated in Iraq and would eventually cut its losses and pull out its troops.

«Iraq is a catastrophe for America and Americans will leave, it will only be a matter of time.

«I say to Bush: you entered Iraq with lies, you will lose Iraq and lie about it and you will leave with the pretext that you have completed your mission … America only has to decide on the number of (troops) it wishes to lose before withdrawing.»

Zawahri said Washington would keep military bases in Iraq to back its «agent government» and urged insurgents «to unite to free Iraq and install Islamic sharia (law).»

The video showed him speaking calmly against a white background. It carried English subtitles.

In the previously aired excerpts, Zawahri had said Al Qaeda was behind the July 7 suicide bombings in London.

He had also blasted political reforms in Muslim countries promoted by the United States and denounced elections in Afghanistan as a farce conducted under U.S. occupation.

Bin Laden and Zawahri have eluded capture since U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in 2001.

Zawahri last appeared in a video tape in October, urging Muslims to help Pakistan’s earthquake victims.