DUBAI (Reuters) - The head of al Qaeda has called footage of U.S. Marines appearing to urinate on the corpses of Afghans proof of Western depravity that underlines the need to fight "crusader" forces in the country.
In a video posted to an Islamist site on Thursday, Ayman al-Zawahri - who replaced Osama bin Laden last year after U.S. troops killed him in Pakistan - called the images that emerged online in January a divine message.
"God has exposed America with a tape ... which shows Marines urinating on the body of an Afghan holy warrior," he said in a message delivered in Arabic.
"This the truth of their Western, Zionist, godless civilization; these are their values and their view of the rest of humanity generally and Muslims specifically."
"Noble Afghan, the road has become clear and the path apparent: either stand under the banner of Islam as a holy warrior ... or ignominy in this world and disgrace in the next," he said, adding: "You have seen how the crusaders regard you, and what your fate is at their hands."
Zawahri's recording follows - but does not refer to - the massacre of 16 Afghans by a U.S. soldier this month and the burning of Korans at a NATO military base which enflamed sentiment towards Western troops in Afghanistan.
Those incidents have complicated U.S. efforts to put responsibility for security in the hands of Afghan forces as U.S. President Barack Obama vows to withdraw forces who invaded the country and ousted its Taliban rulers over a decade ago.
Afghan officials say Washington has agreed to transfer Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar, as one element of talks with the Taliban that is intended to keep them from bringing down Afghan President Hamid Karzai after a U.S. pullout.
(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Ben Harding)