Osama bin Laden`s deputy issued a worldwide call today for Muslims to rise up in holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza, until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq".
Ayman al-Zawahiri warned that al-Qaida would not stand "idly by, humiliated", as Israeli "shells burn our brothers".
In a video tape broadcast by al-Jazeera, the Egyptian terror leader said: "How can we remain silent while watching bombs raining on our people? Oh Muslims everywhere, I call on you to fight and become martyrs in the war against the Zionists and the Crusaders. "He said that the weapons being used by the Israelis were from the "crusader coalition" and added that "every participant will pay the price".
Zawahiri, wearing a grey robe and white turban, and speaking in front of a picture of the World Trade Centre on fire, said al-Qaida now saw "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us".
He said: "The war with Israel does not depend on ceasefires ... . It is a jihad for God`s sake and will last until [our] religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq ... We will attack everywhere."
In another section of the tape, he said: "The shells and rockets ripping apart Muslim bodies in Gaza and Lebanon are not only Israeli [weapons], but are supplied by all the countries of the crusader coalition. Therefore, every participant in the crime will pay the price."
The Arab broadcaster appeared not to have transmitted the entire tape, using instead selected quotes interspersed with commentary from an anchor. There are long-standing fears that tapes from al-Qaida leaders might contain coded messages to followers.
In this latest tape, as well as the twin towers image there were also photographs of two militants behind Zawahiri. One appeared to be a bearded Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the September 11 attacks. The other was Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, a former top lieutenant of Bin Laden who was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan in November 2001.
Zawahiri, a medical doctor, is believed, like Bin Laden, to be hiding somewhere around the Afghan-Pakistan border.
A new audio or video message from Bin Laden about Lebanon and Gaza is expected to emerge in the coming days, according to IntelCenter, a US-based independent group that provides counterterrorism information to the US government and media.
Today`s message was al-Zawahiri`s tenth this year. Bin Laden has issued five messages in what has been a particularly active year in terms of messages from the al-Qaida leadership.
Al-Zawahiri last appeared in a video posted on an extremist website on July 7, the one-year anniversary of the train bombings in London. In that tape, he said two of the four suicide bombers in London spent time in an al-Qaida training camp, preparing themselves for a suicide mission.
An audio message, purporting to be from Bin Laden, was broadcast last month in which he eulogised the al-Qaida leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by US airstrikes.