Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims on Thursday to support the insurgency in Iraq as the best way to support the Palestinians, and accused Arab leaders of backing Israeli attacks on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
This image released by the SITE Intelligence Group show a photo of Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims on Thursday to support the insurgency in Iraq as the best way to support the Palestinians, and accused Arab leaders of backing Israeli attacks on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.(AFP/SITE-HO)
"The nearest Jihad (holy war) battlefield to support our people in Palestine is the battlefield of Iraq ... It should be taken care of and supported," said an audiotape attributed to him on Al-Jazeera television whose authenticity could not be immediately verified.
"The people of As-Sham (Greater Syria), all of As-Sham, should support their brothers the mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Iraq," said the voice attributed by the Doha-based channel to the Al-Qaeda leader.
The speaker also scorned pro-US Arab leaders, calling them the "Arabs of Annapolis" in reference to the November Middle East peace conference held in the United States, and accusing them of supporting Israel in its offensive against the Gaza Strip.
"This lethal siege started after the United States and the Zionist entity got the support of the Arabs of Annapolis," he claimed. "With this support, they are partners in this horrid crime."
Palestinian militants in the diaspora should join the insurgency in Iraq and ignore the "illusions of the parties and groups that are falling for the tricks of infidel democracy," he said without elaborating.
"It is a great opportunity and a huge duty for my brothers, the emigrants among the people of Palestine, who have been deprived of fighting in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) ... to hurry to take their positions among the mujahedeen in Iraq, so that with support comes victory from Allah.
"Then will follow the surge towards the blessed Aqsa (mosque), where the mujahedeen from abroad meet their brothers inside" the Palestinian territories.
The tape came a day another audio message in which a voice purporting to be that of Bin Laden warned Europe of a "reckoning" for publishing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Addressing the "intelligent ones" in the European Union, the speaker said publishing the "insulting drawings" was a greater crime than Western forces targeting Muslim villages and killing women and children.
And the "reckoning for it will be more severe," he said, according to a transcript of the message provided by the Virginia-based IntelCenter.
Referring to a series of cartoons published in Danish newspapers early last year, he also warned: "if there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions."
And cryptically he added that the Muslims' response to the insult will be "what you see, not what you hear."
The five-minute audio message, titled "May Our Mothers Be Bereaved Of Us If We Fail to Help Our Prophet," was posted by As-Sahab, Al-Qaeda's media arm, according to SITE Intelligence Group.
The message said that the cartoons were part of "the framework of a new crusade" in which the Roman Catholic pope "has played a large, lengthy role."
The Al-Qaeda leader also assailed the king of Saudi Arabia as the "one man who can put an end to these drawings, if it mattered to him."
That message coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.
Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people and prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Despite a massive manhunt and a 25-million-dollar bounty on his head, he has evaded capture and has regularly taunted the United States and its allies through warnings issued via video and audio, mainly on the Internet.