Al-Qaida leader hits Afghans who back government

March 22, 2012 - 2:56 PM

CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's leader lashed out at Afghan clerics and politicians who support the Kabul government in an audio message posted Thursday.

Ayman al-Zawahri called on the backers of President Hamid Karzai's regime and its NATO allies to switch sides. His 11-minute audio message, posted on militant websites, complained about alleged abuses against the Afghan people.

"The events reveal the extent of degradation of those pro-government people who wear turbans and grow beards, and the politicians who are worse than hypocrites," he said. "They are more despicable than the infidels."

Al-Zawahri, who assumed command of al-Qaida last June after founder Osama bin Laden was killed in an American raid in Pakistan, called on Afghans to join the jihad, or holy war, against NATO forces in their country.

He told the Afghan people that they have two choices, either to "stand under the banner of Islam as a holy warrior or face the humiliation of life after you have seen how the invaders treat you."

Al-Zawahri aimed blistering criticism at the U.S., referring to a video that shows U.S. soldiers urinating on what appear to be the bodies of militant fighters.

"These are their values and how they regard people, especially Muslims, and this is their way in dealing with us," he said.

He accused the United States of contradicting itself when it calls for freedom and democracy in other countries.

"The United States does not stop questioning the standards of freedom and justice, and at the same time carrying out the worst crimes known by humanity," he said.

He did not comment on the March 11 shooting deaths of 17 Afghans, allegedly by an American soldier, indicating that the audio message was recorded before that incident.

In a video released Friday, al-Zawahri called on the Pakistani people to join the Arab Spring uprisings and rebel against their government. He said, "The Pakistani leaders are slaves of America."