Video from Iraq Al-Qaida Wants to Kidnap More Westerners

Musab al-Zarqawi's successor at the head of Al-Qaida in Iraq has made a plea to all jihadis there: Kidnap more westerners. The goal is freedom for Omar Abdel Rahman, who's in US custody for the 1993 WTC bombing.

By Yassin Musharbash

Al-Qaida in Iraq wants to win the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman's freedom from a U.S. jail.

Al-Qaida in Iraq wants to win the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman's freedom from a U.S. jail.

At first viewing, the video released on Thursday is little more than a 20-minute-long orgy of high-volume propaganda delivered by the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer. "We're winning, we're winning, we're winning," he screams. Who's we? "Muslims as a whole and expecially jihadis." The successor of the now-dead Musab al-Zarqawi has been carrying out his new duties for only three months. He's trying to win respect from his followers.

But on second viewing, there's more to the video than just propaganda. Ominously for Westerners in Iraq, the new terror boss wants to see a fresh wave of kidnappings in the war-torn country.

"I call for all free mujahedeen in Iraq to catch any number of Roman dogs," he says, adding that pressure on the West will help free "our sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman, from an American jail. "Romans" is a reference to Western invaders -- in Islamist phraseology Byzantine Christians (or eastern Romans) serve as a prototype for all oppressors.

Omar Abdel Rahman is a blind Egyptian-born preacher who was arrested after al-Qaida's 1993 attempt to topple the World Trade Center with a truck bomb. The attack killed six people and injured 100. Rahman, as mastermind of the plot, is mentioned often in al Qaida-related publications, making him an icon of international jihadis.

Messages to clan leaders and "bomb builders"

Al-Muhajer -- whose nationality is unclear -- also has a message for the "sheikhs of the clans in Iraq." "I say to you: God will repay you for standing by our side." Yet most of Iraq's clans have long since abandoned al-Qaida in the country. Indeed, al-Muhajer himself seems to acknowledge this lack of support by extending what sounds like an amnesty: "We'll give you a second chance," he intones. "Return to your religion!"

Al-Muhajer also gives a shout out to those who provide the support system for terrorists -- the "media experts, the legal scholars, the bomb builders." "We need you," al-Muhajer screams into the microphone. He also promises that US bases will be attacked with unconventional weapons not yet unveiled.

The speech comes at the start of the month-long celebration of Ramadan. For most Muslims, it's a month of prayer, celebration and daylight fasting. Al-Muhajer calls it "the month of jihad and the pursuit of martyrdom." Hardly surprising. Terrorist leaders have developed something of a tradition of lunging for the microphone around Ramadan. "Good deeds" done during the month, after all, count double.

Unclear, however, is just how much standing al-Muhajer enjoys or how many fighters follow his lead. He's not the only one with a claim to the top spot in Al Qaida in Iraq following Zarqawi's death under a hail of US bombs. The group was weakened by the airstrike, but still allegedly carries out a number of attacks per day.

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