CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's leader urged Islamists in Egypt in an audio-recording that surfaced Friday to unite under the banner of religion to rid the country of the rule of the military, saying it is fighting a war against Islam.
In a 17-minute video posted on the Internet, Ayman al-Zawahri blasted the Egyptian military, calling its leader "the Americanized butcher of the military coup." He said the "secular military" has colluded with the United States, Israel, secular movements and Christians against Islam.
Al-Zawahri also accused Egypt's secularists of cooperating with the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and taking money from Gulf countries in a "dirty conspiracy" to crush Islamic movements and plans to restore a broad Islamic Caliphate.
His speech was preceded with more than four minutes of footage from the violent crackdown on protests held by supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in which more than 1,000 people have been killed since August.
Morsi was deposed by the military on July 3, and has since been held in an undisclosed location. His supporters have kept up a near-daily protest movement that has often ended up in clashes with security forces and Egyptians supportive of the military.
"Here is the tragedy in Egypt unfolding before your eyes, showing the extent the hatred of the seculars, the U.S. agents, have for Muslims and Islamist groups," al-Zawahri said. "The secular military and its allies, the enemies of Islam, what to eradicate anyone who raises the banner of Islam."
Since Morsi's ouster, Islamic militants have intensified their campaign of attacks against security and the military in the volatile Sinai peninsula and in some other places in Egypt— reinforcing authorities' claim that Morsi supporters are fuelling violence to undermine the transitional government.
In a jab at Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, al-Zawahri criticized Islamists who "compromised" with secular groups in Egypt and Tunisia, only to end up being persecuted by them. He said the anti-Islam alliance doesn't distinguish between Islamists who wage holy war or those who seek power through democratic means.
"They held on to secularism, fought for it, turning against the so-called democracy idol they asked Muslims to submit to in place of the rule of Shariah (or Islamic law)," he said.
Al-Zawahri urged Islamists to unite and wage a "popular" religious uprising "to rid Egypt of this criminal gang that jumped over power with fire and iron."
The recording was produced by the media arm of the group which issues Zawahri's messages. This is al-Zawahri's second message about Egypt since August.