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Since 1st March, 1999
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Laden sounds bugle for long war
Darfur, Hamas on Osama lips

Dubai, April 23 (Reuters): Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden urged his followers to prepare for a long war against western would-be occupiers in Sudan’s Darfur region, according to an audiotape attributed to him which aired today.

The speaker, who sounded like the Saudi-born militant, also said on the tape broadcast on Al Jazeera television that the West’s shunning of the Hamas Palestinian government showed it was waging a “Crusader-Zionist war” on Muslims.

“I call on the mujahideen and their supporters in Sudan... and the Arabian peninsula to prepare all that is necessary to wage a long-term war against the Crusaders in western Sudan,” bin Laden said, accusing the West of seeking to divide Sudan.

Sudan hosted bin Laden in the 1990s, but on the tape he criticised Khartoum for not enforcing Shariat throughout the country and made clear his call to arms in Darfur was in spite of his differences with the Sudanese government.

Criticising a US-backed peace deal between Khartoum and southern rebels, bin Laden accused the US of planning to send “Crusader troops to occupy the region and steal its oil under the cover of preserving security there”.

Some UN troops have arrived in southern Sudan, the first of an expected 10,000 peacekeepers to be sent there. Sudan is resisting pressure for UN peacekeepers to deploy in Darfur.

“This means that we are coming up to a new Qaida in Darfur similar to that in Afghanistan,” Faris bin Houzam, a journalist who specialises in al Qaida, said.

Bin Laden accused Washington of fuelling strife in the country.

The US is pressing for UN sanctions against the Sudanese government for its part in the Darfur conflict, which erupted in 2003 when mostly non-Arab tribes revolted, accusing the Arab-dominated authorities of neglecting them. Khartoum retaliated by arming mainly Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, who began a campaign of murder, rape and plunder that drove more than two million villagers into squalid camps in Darfur and in neighbouring Chad. Khartoum denies responsibility.

Bin Laden said the Darfur crisis and western efforts to isolate the Palestinian government since Hamas won January elections were part of an anti-Muslim campaign.

“Their rejection of Hamas affirms that it is a Crusader-Zionist war against Muslims,” he said, although he also criticised the Islamist group for breaking what he said was a taboo against “joining infidel assemblies”. He said people in the West shared responsibility for their countries’ “war against Islam”.

In the brief excerpts of the tape that Al Jazeera aired, he did not repeat his assertion in the last audiotape attributed to him broadcast on January 19 that al Qaida was preparing attacks in the US but was open to a conditional truce with Americans.

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