Al Qaeda urges Pakistanis to revolt against Musharraf


Islamabad/Washington : Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman Al Zawahiri Thursday asked the people of Pakistan to revolt against President Pervez Musharraf following the storming of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, and also mentioned India and Britain in his latest video.

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Al Zawahiri has made a passing reference to "malicious Britain and its Indian slaves" in the context of the detention of Indian doctors following the recent terror plots in Britain.

His latest video, produced by As Sabah – the multimedia wing of Al Qaeda – describes the nine-day operation at Lal Masjid as an "aggression".

The speech is entitled "The Aggression Against Lal Masjid".

It is available in both video and audiotape versions. The audiotape is posted on the Internet. It is the tenth Al Qaeda posting this year and third this month, according to reports appearing on the websites of Pakistani newspapers Dawn and The News.

Significantly, Al Zawahiri has asked the people of Pakistan to join the jihad, not in Pakistan, but in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Challenging Musharraf is fruitless, but empowering the Taliban may meet (with) success, he has said, without elaborating.

"Your salvation is only through jihad, so you must now back the mujahideen in Afghanistan with your persons, wealth, opinion and expertise, because the jihad in Afghanistan is the door to salvation for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of the region."

Al Zawahiri claims Pakistani intelligence agencies intentionally showed Abdul Aziz – chief cleric of Lal Masjid – on television wearing a burqa. He argues that this incident together with the military operation is a message of "blinding clarity" to Pakistanis and scholars.

Such a crime, Zawahiri states, may only be "washed away by repentance or blood".

A classified document prepared by US intelligence analysts and cited by CNN and public testimony said that the Al Qaeda network continues to build its base in the "ungoverned spaces" of Pakistan and is as strong as it was in 2001.

"We actually see the Al Qaeda centres being resurgent in their role in planning operations," John Kringen, head of the CIA intelligence directorate, told the House (of Representatives) Armed Services Committee Wednesday, DPA added.

"They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven in the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan … We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications."

A counter-terrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the new government threat assessment called it a stark appraisal that would be discussed at the White House Thursday as part of a broader meeting on an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

The document pays special heed to the terror group's safe havens in Pakistan and makes a range of observations about the threat posed to the US and its allies, officials said.

Al Qaeda is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001", the official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."

The group also has created "the most robust training programme since 2001, with an interest in using European operatives", the official quoted the report as saying.

At the same time, the official said, the report speaks of "significant gaps in intelligence", so US authorities may be ignorant of potential or planned attacks.

John Kringen, the CIA's director of intelligence, told the House (of Representatives) Armed Services Committee Wednesday that Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists appear "fairly well settled into the safe haven" of northwest Pakistan, benefiting from more training, money and communications.

Kringen expressed particular regret over Musharraf's peace deal last September with tribal elders in North Waziristan. The Waziristan region is a hotbed of pro-Taliban militants supporting the bloody insurgency in Afghanistan against the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

"We would agree that the peace deal in Waziristan has not been helpful in terms of the anti-terrorist effort," the CIA official said.

Musharraf's rationale for the controversial peace pact was to halt cross-border attacks and enlist tribal help to expel Al Qaeda fighters. "From our assessment, we have not seen developments going in that direction but actually in a negative direction," Kringen said.