Islamabad – The Pakistan Army has become a tool in the hands of the “crusaders” to save American and NATO troops from certain defeat in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command said in a new video message on Tuesday. “At this moment Pakistani forces are playing the central role in this crusade that has been imposed on Islam and Muslims,” Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a 26-minute video posted on Muslim extremist websites.
“And this [Pakistan Army] has completely become a tool for the crusaders against its own public, neighbouring countries and the Islamic world,” he added in the message that was recorded some time between July 23 and August 21.
The message was posted only on Tuesday, three days after 10 terrorists with suspected links with al-Qaeda and Taliban raided Pakistan’s military headquarters and held more than 40 people hostage for around 22 hours.
In a pre-dawn raid Sunday, Pakistani commandos ended the hostage drama, but the attack and following siege left 23 people dead. Among them were 11 soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel and a brigadier, three hostages and nine attackers.
Al-Zawahiri criticized Pakistan’s military over a planned offensive in the tribal South Waziristan district, a rugged and mountainous region which al-Qaeda and Taliban militants use to plan and launch cross-border attacks on western forces in Afghanistan.
“The only objective of this plan is to save American and allied forces from the humiliation of defeat,” he said. “
“First of all this plan was agreed upon in Washington, [Pakistan’s army chief General Ishfaq Parvez] Kayani later presented in Brussels for approval,” al-Zawahiri alleged.
He warned that the offensive was destined to fail. “These puppets of the crusaders, these Pakistani forces, have named this operation ‘Path to Deliverance,’ but by the grace of God it will cause death and destruction for them.”
Pakistani forces have carried out several offensives against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters across militancy-plagued north-western Pakistan over the last year, putting pressure on the militants who once enjoyed the state’s support.
In retaliation, the militants repeatedly attacked civilians and military targets. On Monday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a security convoy in Shangla district in north-western Pakistan, killing seven soldiers and 38 civilians.
Such actrocities [sic] have eroded public support for al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan – an Islamic country of more than 160 million people.
In his latest message al-Zawahiri blamed “secular” Pakistani rulers and the “apostate” military for carrying out “false propaganda” against them and urged Pakistani Muslims to support mujahidin with their lives, property, and information.