New al-Qaeda tape threatens UK


IRO, Egypt (AP) -- Al-Qaeda's No. 2 issued a new tape on Tuesday threatening to retaliate against Britain for having honored novelist Salman Rushdie, a U.S.-based intelligence monitoring group said.  

Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, lashed out at Britain for having knighted Salman Rushdie last month.

Ayman al-Zawahri's 20 minute and 43 seconds speech was entitled "Malicious Britain and its Indian Slaves." It was produced by as-Sahab, the multimedia wing of al-Qaeda, to be distributed to extremist web sites, said the US-based SITE intelligence group, which monitors al-Qaeda messages.

The authenticity of the tape, also reported by another US-based intelligence monitoring group, could not be independently confirmed.

Osama bin Laden's deputy lashed out at Britain for having awarded a knighthood to Rushdie last month, saying it was defying the Islamic world by granting the honor to the author of "The Satanic Verses," deemed to insult Islam.

A "very precise response" is in preparation to retaliate against this offense, al-Zawahri was quoted as saying by SITE.

Addressing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the al-Qaida deputy chief said Britain's strategy in the Middle East "has brought tragedy and defeat upon you, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the center of London." This appeared to be a reference to the deadly London transit network bombings which occurred just about two years ago.

"And if you did not understand, listen, we are ready to repeat it for you," al-Zawahri was quoted as warning the British prime minister.

Rushdie was awarded a knighthood by the Queen of England last month to honor his career as a writer. The decision stirred anger among Muslim radicals, some groups renewing calls for the Indian novelist to be sentenced to death. Iran's leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, in 1989 to sentence the author to death for having written "The Satanic Verses," deemed blasphemous against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

The rest of al-Zawahri's new tape addressed a variety of topics frequently raised by al-Qaeda.

The terrorism chief criticized the Palestinian Hamas for compromising with Israel, called Muslims to join the jihad -- or holy war -- against the West, and hailed a bombing that killed six United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon last month, SITE said.

He also railed against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, saying Muslims should not oppose him through elections but by fighting alongside the Taliban.

It was not immediately clear whether al-Zawahri recorded his tape before or after the June 29 thwarted terror plot in Britain or since police began ongoing clashes with religious students at a radical mosque in Pakistan.

Al-Zawahri has issued eight video messages this year, along with a number of audio speeches. His previous tape was distributed last week by as-Sahab, the al-Qaida media wing.

The IntelCenter, a US-based intelligence group that monitors militant messages, says this was the 59th video released by as-Sahab in 2007.

The group released a total of 58 videos for all of 2006. IntelCenter said as-Sahab is operating at its highest production level ever and is averaging a video release every three days.

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