CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's leader has urged Muslims in Arab Spring countries to unite to institute an Islamic state, while warning France that its intervention in Mali will be bogged down.
"I warn France that it will meet in Mali, with God's permission, the same fate America met in Iraq and Afghanistan," Ayman Al-Zawahri said in a 103-minute audio message posted on militant websites late Saturday.
France launched a military operation in Mali last January after being asked to intervene by the country's interim president. Since then, French and Malian troops have liberated main towns in the north, but remnants of an al-Qaida cell remain active there in some of the vast, rural areas.
In the recording, al-Zawahri urged Muslims to liberate their lands from oppressive regimes and foreign troops, apply Islamic law, halt the plundering of Muslim wealth, support rebellious Muslims and oppressed people worldwide, and establish the Islamic Caliphate, or religious state.
The audio was produced by al-Qaida's media arm, As-Sahab, and was presented alongside video footage showing Iranian revolutionary guards captured in Syria, and other events in the Middle East.
The al-Qaida leader praised the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, in Syria, urging them to step up their fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. But he also warned them against letting the country fall under the influence of the United States, the Arab League, the United Nations and Israel should they gain control of it.
"(They) want to steal your sacrifices and your jihad to give them to their supporters in Washington, Moscow and Tel Aviv."
Al-Zawahri also lashed out against Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran for their support of Assad, saying that "the true faces of Iran and Hezbollah have been exposed, and their ugly reality has appeared in the field of holy war in Syria." He called The Syrian government a "criminal secular" regime.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, criticized the country's ruling Muslim Brotherhood for a weak response to the country's poverty, saying "the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Have the Islamic movements provided better education, health or transportation?"
He also attacked the country's new constitution, drawn up by the Brotherhood and other Islamic movements, for not being religious enough. The charter, he said, approved by referendum last December, fell short of promises made by the Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that is the country's most powerful political force.
He objected to the fact that the current constitution designates Islamic law, or Sharia, only as "the main source" of legislation, rather than the "sole source."
Al-Zawahri's previous message, in which he urged Muslims to join Somali militants, was in November.