Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged Syrian protesters to direct their movement also against Washington and Israel, denouncing the United States as insincere in showing solidarity with them, according to an Internet video issued on Wednesday.
"America, which cooperated with (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad during his whole regime, claims today that it stands with you when it saw him floored by the earthquake caused by your fury," he said in the video posted on Islamist websites often used by al Qaeda.
The video carried the date of the Islamic month corresponding to June, when Zawahri was named by the Islamist group to succeed Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US forces in Pakistan in May after a nearly 10-year worldwide hunt.
"You are standing with your bare chests facing tank and artillery shells and helicopters," Zawahri said of the Syrians demonstrating against Assad, whom he denounced as "America’s partner in the war on Islam in the name of fighting terror".
"Tell both America and (US President Barack) Obama: … our powerful uprising will not stop until we raise the victorious banner of jihad (holy war) … over Jerusalem," said Zawahri, wearing a white turban and robe and seated next to an assault rifle.
Wave of demonstrations
There is little evidence of al Qaeda influence in the four-month wave of demonstrations against the Syrian government, sparked by protests that overthrew long-time rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.
But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem has said that the killings of some police and soldiers indicated that al Qaeda might be behind some of the violence.
In the past four months, the United States has repeatedly condemned Syria’s crackdown against demonstrators, with the US ambassador visiting the restive town of Hama earlier in July in an unusual show of solidarity with anti-Assad demonstrators.
Zawahri’s whereabouts are unknown, although he has long been thought to be hiding along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Washington is offering a $25 million reward for any information leading to his capture or conviction.