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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 13:55 GMT
Libyan Islamists 'join al-Qaeda'
Ayman al-Zawahri
Zawahri called for North African leaders to be overthrown
A Libyan Islamist group has joined al-Qaeda, according to an audio message on the internet attributed to the radical network's second-in-command.

Ayman al-Zawahri purportedly said the Fighting Islamic Group in Libya was becoming part of al-Qaeda.

Earlier this year Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat also claimed to have joined the network.

The recorded message called on Islamists to topple North African as well as Palestinian leaders.

"O nation of jihad, support your sons so that we defeat our enemies and rid our homeland of their slaves," said the recorded voice attributed to al-Zawahri, referring to the leaders of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

In the message, the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, is described as "an enemy of Islam" and criticised for giving up weapons of mass destruction in 2003, in exchange for an end to Libya's international isolation.

Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi is criticised for kowtowing to "crusader masters"

The voice on the recording also calls on Palestinians belonging to Fatah and its military arm, the al-Aqsa Brigades, to remove from power their leader, President Mahmoud Abbas. said.

In the same tape, a leader of the Fighting Islamic Group in Libya is introduced as Abu Laith al-Libi.

"We proclaim our alliance with the Al-Qaeda network... to become the faithful soldiers of Osama Bin Laden," it says.

The group was formed in the early 1990s by Libyans who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan and has dozens of members arrested and jailed throughout North Africa.

Libyan authorities have always denied its claims of attacks in the oil-producing region of eastern Cyrenaica.

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