Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Al Qaeda today warned that it will carry out further terror attacks in response to the decision to honour author Salman Rushdie with a knighthood.
However tonight Downing Street insisted Britain would not be undermined by terrorists.
In a 20-minute speech the terror organisation's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri said a "very precise" response to the knighthood was being prepared.
The chilling speech by Osama Bin Laden's was entitled "Malicious Britain and its Indian Slaves" and was produced by as-Sahab - the multimedia wing of al Qaeda - for distribution to extremist websites.
It was uncovered by the US-based intelligence group SITE, which monitors al Qaeda messages.
Ayman al-Zawahri lashed out at Britain for having awarded the knighthood to Rushdie last month, saying it was defying the Islamic world by granting the honor to the author of The Satanic Verses, which was deemed an insult to Islam.
Addressing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the al-Qaeda deputy chief said Britain's strategy in the Middle East "has brought tragedy and defeat upon you, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the centre of London."
"And if you did not understand, listen, we are ready to repeat it for you," al-Zawahri said.
A Downing Street spokesman, while not responding directly to al-Zawahri's remarks, said: "As the Prime Minister has said we will not allow terrorists to undermine the British way of life.
"The British people will remain united, resolute and strong."
The Foreign Office said it would maintain efforts to thwart terrorists.
"We will continue to tackle the threat from international terrorism as a priority in order to prevent the risk of attacks on British interests at home and overseas, including from al Qaida," a spokesman said.
"These terrorists care nothing for the peoples of the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaida has been killing civilians of all faiths, including many fellow Muslims, for years."
On the knighthood of Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, the Foreign Office reiterated that it was awarded purely in recognition of his literary achievements.
"The Government have already made clear that Rushdie's honour was not intended as an insult to Islam or the prophet Mohammed." the spokesman said.
"It was a reflection of his contribution to literature throughout a long and distinguished career."
The decision stirred anger among Muslim radicals, some groups renewing calls for the Indian novelist to be sentenced to death.
Iran's leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, in 1989 to sentence the author to death for having written The Satanic Verses, deemed blasphemous against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
The rest of al-Zawahri's new tape addressed a variety of topics frequently raised by al Qaeda.
The terrorism chief criticized the Palestinian Hamas for compromising with Israel, called Muslims to join the jihad -or holy war- against the West, and hailed a bombing that killed six United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon last month, SITE said.
He also railed against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, saying Muslims should not oppose him through elections but by fighting alongside the Taliban.
It was not immediately clear whether al-Zawahri recorded his tape before or after the June 29 thwarted terror plot in Britain or since police began ongoing clashes with religious students at a radical mosque in Pakistan.
Al-Zawahri has issued eight video messages this year, along with a number of audio speeches. His previous tape was distributed last week by as-Sahab, the al-Qaida media wing.
The IntelCenter, a US-based intelligence group that monitors militant messages, says this was the 59th video released by as-Sahab in 2007.The group released a total of 58 videos for all of 2006. IntelCenter said as-Sahab is operating at its highest production level ever and is averaging a video release every three days.