Bin Laden’s No. 2: Muslims will destroy America

CAIRO (AP) — Osama bin Laden’s deputy warned Wednesday that America faces not individual terrorists or groups but an international community of Muslims that seek to destroy it and its allies. He was delivering a 28-minute videotaped eulogy to slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida’s longtime No. 2 and considered the network’s operational head, also sought to cast a role for the terror group in the popular uprisings shaking Arab world.

“Today, praise God, America is not facing an individual, a group or a faction,” he said, wearing a white robe and turban with an assault rifle leaned on a wall behind him. “It is facing a nation than is in revolt, having risen from its lethargy to a renaissance of jihad.”

Al-Zawahri also heaped praise on bin Laden, who was killed in the May 2 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. Al-Zawahri, who is believed to be operating from somewhere near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, also criticized the U.S. for burying bin Laden at sea.

“He went to his God as a martyr, the man who terrified American while alive and terrifies it in death, so much so that they trembled at the idea of his having tomb” he said.

Al-Zawahri tried to cast recent developments as in line with his group’s longtime goal: to destroy America and its allies. He said America now faces the international Muslim community.

“Our brothers who are working in Islam in all places, I tell you that our hands are extended to you and our hearts are open to you, so that we can work together to make Allah’s word the highest and to make Islamic law in Muslim lands the ruler, not the ruled,” he said in a video released on militant websites.

Al-Qaida has long sought to topple many of the Arab leaders whose regimes have been shaken or toppled by popular uprisings this year, though militant Islam has played next to no role in any of them and most activists say they seek civil, not religious rule.

Within days of the bin Laden raid, al-Qaida had issued a statement vowing to keep fighting the United States, a message that was likely designed to convince followers that the organization would remain vigorous and intact even after its founder’s demise.

But al-Zawahri’s eulogy was the first comment by one of his potential successors on bin Laden’s killing.

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