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World: Bin Laden Sees Next Battlefield In Sudan

An image from Al-Jazeera television, which broadcast an audiotape believed to be from Osama bin Laden (AFP) Al-Jazeera television has broadcast a new audiotape, purportedly from Osama bin Laden, in which the Al-Qaeda leader says the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region and the international isolation of Hamas are proof that the West is waging war against Islam.

PRAGUE, April 24, 2006 (RFE/RL) – The audiotape, which was broadcast on April 23, was deemed to be genuine by U.S. intelligence officials.

It was bin Laden's second missive this year and was clearly made to show the Al-Qaeda leader remains in touch with current events.

On the tape, bin Laden focuses on several recent issues that have topped public debate in the Arab and Islamic world, including Muslim anger over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons and the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

'Crusader-Zionist War'

Three months ago, in his last communication, bin Laden said a truce was possible between Al-Qaeda and the West. But in this latest address the tone is much more combative.
Bin Laden says that in Al-Qaeda's view, there was no real difference between Western government officials and ordinary citizens. Both remain targets.

Sounding like a prosecutor proving his case to a jury, bin Laden says the West's recent actions prove it is waging a war against Islam. He singles out Europe and America's economic boycott of Hamas after its election victory in the Palestinian territories as a clear example of what he calls a "crusader-Zionist war" against Muslims:

"What also shows [that] this [is a crusader war] is their rejection of the Hamas movement after it won the elections, which affirms what Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahri pointed out, that it is a sin to join the infidel assemblies. Their rejection of Hamas, affirms that it is a crusader-Zionist war against Muslims," the voice believed to be bin Laden says on the tape.

Bin Laden says that in Al-Qaeda's view, there was no real difference between Western government officials and ordinary citizens. Both remain targets.

"I would also like to say that the war is a responsibility shared between the people and the governments," he says. "The war goes on and the people are renewing their allegiance to their rulers and politicians. They send their sons to armies to fight us and they continue their financial and moral support while our countries are burned and our houses are bombed and our people are killed, and nobody cares about us. And you have a valid example of the flagrant violations against our nation and brothers and countries, committed by your [U.S.] ally Israel who invaded and demolished the Jericho prison with complicity from the United States and Britain."

Referring to the recent controversy over the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, bin Laden calls for the Danish cartoonists who drew them to be handed over to Al-Qaeda for punishment.

A Call To Fight Peacekeepers

This latest audiotape marks the first time that bin Laden focused on Sudan, where he sheltered for a time before being kicked out under U.S. pressure.

Refugees from Darfur in Chad (file photo, epa)

At least 180,000 people have died in Darfur and some 2 million others have been displaced since tribal clashes over land and water erupted into large-scale violence in early 2003.

The Sudanese government is accused of using ethnic Arab militias known as the Janjaweed in a proxy war against Darfur's local black African population. Khartoum denies the charge.

But several members of the UN Security Council, led by the United States and Britain, have called for an international peacekeeping force to be sent to the region.

Bin Laden says those calls were yet another attempt to impose foreign military occupation on an Islamic country. He urges his followers to go to Sudan to fight foreign peacekeepers.

The Sudanese government, which opposes the idea of foreign peacekeepers, was quick to reject bin Laden's message of brotherly support. Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim said Sudan is "not concerned with any mujahedin or any crusade or any war with the international community."

A Partisan U.S. Reaction

The latest Al-Qaeda tape has reignited political debate in the United States, with the opposition Democrats renewing their criticism of the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Many Democrats argue that part of the reason bin Laden has not been captured is that the United States has become bogged down in Iraq and is too distracted to finish the mission against Al-Qaeda.

President George W. Bush and his advisers adamantly reject this assessment.

Bin Laden is currently believed to be hiding somewhere along the mountainous Afghan-Pakistani border.

Who Is Ayman al-Zawahri?

Who Is Ayman al-Zawahri?

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI is regarded as Al-Qaeda's No. 2 authority. Although al-Zawahri is lesser known than Osama bin Laden, some observers say the deputy is just as powerful as the chief....(more)

See also:

Is Al-Qaeda Letter Sign Of Rift, Or Opportunity For Bush?

Al-Qaeda Tape Says U.S. Losing In Afghanistan, Iraq