| Osama bin Laden’s top aide Ayman al-Zawahri
Dubai, May 21 (Reuters): Qatar’s Jazeera television today aired what it said was an audio tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden’s top aide in which he urged Muslims to intensify their holy war against Americans and Jews.
In the recording, which appears to be have been made in the early days of the US-led war on Iraq, Ayman al-Zawahri also told Muslims to strike at the missions and commercial interests of the US, Britain, Australia and Norway, and “turn the ground beneath their feet into an inferno”.
He told the Iraqi people that they were “not alone” in fighting what he called the US occupation of their country.
“The crusaders and the Jews only understand the language of murder, bloodshed... and of the burning towers,” he said referring to New York’s World Trade Center twin towers, levelled by suicide plane hijackers on September 11, 2001.
“Carry arms against your enemies, the Americans and Jews... attack the missions of the US, UK, Australia and Norway and their interests, companies and employees,” he added.
Considered to be bin Laden’s right-hand man, Egyptian eye doctor Zawahri founded a militant group which tried to topple the Egyptian government in the 1990s.
Bin Laden’s al Qaida is blamed for the September 11 attacks as well as triple suicide bombings in Riyadh last week which killed 34 people, mainly foreigners.
Last October, Jazeera broadcast the alleged voice of Zawahri speaking on the anniversary of the US-led war in Afghanistan.
In Casablanca, a newspaper reported today that some of the Casablanca suicide bombers travelled to the United Arab Emirates to meet a Muslim cleric close to al Qaida and returned to Morocco to train for the attacks.
The Arabic daily Assabah named the cleric who it said met the bombers, and published his picture. It did not say when the meeting took place.
Moroccan government ministers said yesterday the 12 young suicide bombers who killed 29 people in Casablanca were linked to international terrorism.
US alert level raised
In Washington, department of homeland security under-secretary Asa Hutchinson said the US terror alert status had been raised to the second-highest level — orange — because of the renewed risk of terrorist attack in the US.
“This change is based upon the terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, also in conjunction with intelligence reports concerning anti-US terrorist groups’ intentions,” Hutchinson told reporters.