AL QAEDA

Zawahiri: UN 'enemy' of Islam

Al Qaeda's deputy Ayman al-Zawahri launched an attack on the United Nations calling it an enemy of Islam and Muslims in an online recording, the first instalment in a two-part series to answer questions submitted via online militant forums.

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Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri launched a blistering attack on the United Nations Wednesday calling it the enemy of Islam and Muslims in an online audiofile.

"The United Nations is an enemy of Islam and Muslims: it is the one which codified and legitimized the setting up of the state of Israel and its taking over of the Muslims' lands," Zawahiri said.

The audio released via the monitoring group the IntelCenter was the first installment in a two-part series to answer about 100 questions put to Zawahiri, known as Al-Qaeda's ideological thinker, via online militant forums.

He grouped his replies into four sections -- the killing of innocents, Iran, Egypt and Palestine -- and denied that the Al-Qaeda network had been responsible for the loss of innocent Muslim lives.

"We haven't killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else," Zawahiri said in the audio lasting one hour and 43 minutes, which marked his third public message this year.

"And if there is any innocent who was killed in the Mujahedeen's operations, then it was either an unintentional error, or out of necessity," he said in the audio, released by the group's media arm As-Sahab, according to IntelCenter.

"Those who kill innocents are the Americans, the Jews, the Russians and the French and their agents," he added.

Zawahiri was also asked by an Algerian medical student to justify the December suicide attacks on UN offices in Algiers in which at least 41 people, including 18 UN staffers -- three of them foreign nationals -- were killed.

But Zawahiri said those who died in Algeria were not innocent victims.

"Rather, according to the communique from the brothers in Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, they are from the Crusader unbelievers and the government troops who defend them," he said.

The Algiers bombing had also brought back memories of the August 19, 2003, suicide attack on UN offices in Baghdad, in which 22 people, including UN special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, were killed.

And in the wake of the attacks, the UN staff union demanded a security review of all UN installations around the world.

Zawahiri also slammed the United Nations, accusing it of double standards.

The United Nations "is the one which considers Chechnya an inseparable part of Crusader Russia, and consider Ceuta and Melilla inseparable parts of Crusader Spain," he said, referring to two Spanish enclaves in North Africa claimed by Morocco.

The UN had also agreed to the presence of outsiders, dubbed "Crusaders" by Zawahiri, in Afghanistan and Iraq and had approved the separation of East Timor from Indonesia.

Yet "it doesn't recognize that [right] for Chechnya, nor for all the Muslim Caucasus, nor for Kashmir, nor for Ceuta and Melilla, nor for Bosnia," he added.

The terror network's number two also said that its leader Osama bin Laden, who has evaded capture by the US military since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was still alive.

"Sheikh Osama bin Laden is healthy and well by the grace of Allah," Zawahiri said, adding of the widespread speculation about his health: "The prejudiced ones always try to spread false information about him being ill."

People had been invited to pose questions to Zawahiri in writing via Al-Qaeda's media outlets the As-Sahab and Al-Fajr websites before January 16, with both media organizations and individuals welcome to take part.

Turning to Iraq and the Middle East peace process, Zawahiri warned of major changes in the region.

He warned the Palestinians of agreeing to any peace deal "which calls for setting up a Palestinian state on the parts of Palestine which were occupied after 1967 and forgetting the parts of Palestine which were stolen before that."

And asked what he expected to happen when American troops leave Iraq, he replied that he thought the "holy war" or "jihad" would "move towards Jerusalem."

"There is no doubt that the American collapse has begun and the myth of unipolarity has ended," he said.

"The raids on New York and Washington were identifying marks of this collapse, but I point out that the collapse of empires doesn't come in a single moment."

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