CAIRO, Egypt – Osama bin Laden’s spokesman issued a strident, televised appeal Tuesday, for Muslims around the world to rise in a global holy war against the United States and its interests everywhere.
Al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith praised the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon for their “good deed,” saying they had “moved the battle into the heart of America.”
“The Americans must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop, God willing, and there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life,” Abu Ghaith said.
The fierce warning – and appeal for help from fellow Muslims – came on the third day of U.S. and British strikes on al-Qaida posts in Afghanistan, and upon installations of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.
Defiant in the face of the attacks, the statement nevertheless made clear the pressure bin Laden’s network felt itself under – taking the unusual step at one point of specifically urging Muslim women, as well as men, to join in fighting the United States.
“I direct this message to the entire Islamic nation, and I say to them that all sides today have come together against the nation of Islam and the Muslims,” Abu Ghaith said.
“This is the crusade that Bush has promised us, coming toward Afghanistan against the Islamic nation and the Afghan people. We are living under this bombardment from the crusade, which is also targeting all Islamic peoples.”
“America has opened a door that, God willing, will not be closed,” the spokesman said.
Before the attacks on Afghanistan began, Bush had called his war on terrorism a crusade, but a day later the White House apologized for using the loaded term which recalls the Christians’ medieval wars against Muslims in the Holy Land.
The message from Abu Ghaith, delivered in Arabic, was the second statement from al-Qaida since the launch of U.S.-led airstrikes against Afghanistan on Sunday. Bin Laden issued a videotaped message that same day, though it appeared to have been recorded before the attacks began.
“The American interests are everywhere all over the world. Every Muslim has to play his real and true role to uphold his religion and his nation in fighting, and jihad is a duty,” he said.
If Muslims do not take up their duty, “it will be shameful,” he said. “This battle is a decisive battle between atheism and faith.”Echoing bin Laden’s earlier message, Abu Ghaith sought to link the terror attacks against America to U.S. Middle East policy.
“America must know that the battle will not leave its land until America leaves our land; until it stops supporting Israel; until it stops the blockade against Iraq.”
An editorial staffer at Al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar, Ibrahim Hilal, said the channel received the tape at its bureau in Kabul, the Afghan capital, Tuesday. Al-Jazeera did not say when the videotape was recorded. The station also broadcast bin Laden’s statement Sunday.
There was no explanation for why the spokesman, rather than bin Laden, appeared in Tuesday’s tape. Taliban authorities have said that bin Laden has survived the U.S. strikes.
“The Americans must know that by invading the land of Afghanistan they have opened a new page of enmity and struggle between us and the forces of the unbelievers,” Abu Ghaith said. “We will fight them with the material and the spiritual strength that we have, and our faith in God. We shall be victorious.”
Abu Ghaith wore a white turban, similar to that worn by Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks.