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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Al-Qaeda deputy sets out strategy
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

Ayman Zawahiri's latest video message
The latest Zawahiri video is well produced technically
Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri has urged Muslims to unite behind the movement's global jihad - and called for the violent overthrow of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Zawahiri's new video, an hour and a half long, has been posted on the internet. It is not clear when it was recorded.

In a wide-ranging review of developments in the Muslim world, Zawahiri lays great stress on the central role of Iraq.

He claims Iraqis are increasingly supporting the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq, proclaimed in predominantly Sunni areas by an al-Qaeda affiliate.

The success of the Islamic State, he says, is crucial to the revival of a global, pan-Islamic caliphate.

Jihadist unity

Zawahiri underlines the need for unity in Iraq - an implicit acknowledgement that splits have opened up in Sunni ranks.

The Americans and the Baghdad government have been encouraging Sunni tribal leaders to join the fight against al-Qaeda.

Do they now have fax machines in Egyptian jail cells? I wonder if they're connected to same line as the electric-shock machines
Ayman al-Zawahiri
He disputes the claim that the Islamic State of Iraq lacks legitimacy and the trappings of statehood.

It is more legitimate, he declares caustically, than the Hamas-Fatah government set up in Gaza and the West Bank.

That government was created in February and has since collapsed - which might suggest the video was made some time ago.

As in the past, the al-Qaeda number two castigates Hamas for "giving away four-fifths of Palestine", the territory which became Israel in 1948.

'Corrupt' regimes

Much of the video is taken up with outspoken attacks against what Zawahiri depicts as the corrupt and repressive governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

He singles out the al-Yamamah defence contract between Britain and the Saudi kingdom, in which large bribes were reportedly paid to Saudi princes.

He alleges Islamists are routinely tortured in Egyptian jails, and even cracks a grim joke at the jailers' expense.

An Arabic newspaper said it had received a fax from the prison cell of a repentant militant - a "backtracker" as Zawahiri calls him.

"Do they now have fax machines in Egyptian jail cells?" he asks sarcastically. "I wonder if they're connected to same line as the electric-shock machines."

In the past Zawahiri has alleged he himself was tortured in an Egyptian jail.

Strategy

The video outlines elements of al-Qaeda's strategy.

The short-term aim, says Zawahiri, is to attack the interests of the "Crusaders and Jews" (the United States, its Western allies and Israel).

The long-term aim is to topple what he calls corrupt Muslim regimes - and to use Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia as training grounds for militants.

Technically, the video shows some sophistication.

Zawahiri's statement is interspersed with clips from Arabic and American TV programmes.

The al-Qaeda leadership may want to show how closely it monitors world events - everything from the books of Bob Woodward on the Iraq war to the views of Thomas Friedman on globalisation.




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