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Originally published September 11, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 11, 2006 at 2:46 PM

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Bin Laden deputy says Middle East is al-Qaida's next target

Osama bin Laden's deputy warned that Persian Gulf countries and Israel would be al-Qaida's next targets.

The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt – Osama bin Laden's deputy warned that Persian Gulf countries and Israel would be al-Qaida's next targets, according to a new videotape aired by Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera today, the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ayman al-Zawahri also accused the governments of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia of supporting Israel's war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Addressing the West, the al-Qaida No. 2 said, "You should not waste your time in reinforcing your troops in Iraq and Afghanistan because their fate is doomed ... Instead, you have to reinforce your troops in two regions. First is the Gulf, where you would be thrown out ... and second is Israel."

He also condemned the U.N. peacekeeping force now deploying in Lebanon under terms set out in a cease-fire resolution.

"What is so terrible in this resolution ... is that it approves the existence of the Jewish state and isolates our mujahedeen in Palestine from Muslims in Lebanon," he said in excerpts of the video aired on Al-Jazeera television.

"This is consecrated by the presence of international troops who are hostile to Islam," he said. "Anyone who accepts this resolution means that he accepts all these catastrophes."

In other portions of the tape aired by CNN earlier today, al-Zawahri urged Muslims to intensify their resistance against the United States and warned in general terms of new terror strikes.

The video was not on any of the militant Web sites that usually carry messages and videos from al-Zawahri and other al-Qaida figures. As-Sahab, the terror network's media arm, had posted notices late Sunday that the video would be available.

It was the latest in a flurry of al-Qaida videos released ahead of the anniversary. But unlike the others, it appeared to be new with references to Israel's bombardment of Lebanon this summer and the capture of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"You gave us every legitimacy and every opportunity to continue fighting you," said al-Zawahri, addressing the United States. "You should worry about your presence in the (Persian) Gulf, and the second place you should worry about is Israel."

The video shows the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri dressed in white and seated in front of a wall of bookshelves.

"Your leaders are hiding from you the true extent of the disaster," he said. "And the days are pregnant and giving birth to new events, with Allah's permission and guidance."

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Al-Zawahri criticized the West for supplying Israel with weapons, and he called on the Islamic world "to rush with everything at its disposal to the aid of its Muslim brothers in Lebanon and Gaza."

Late Sunday, another video posted on the Internet, purportedly by al-Qaida, showed previously unseen footage of a smiling bin Laden and other commanders in a mountain camp apparently planning the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

That tape's documentary-like retrospective of the five years since the attacks was unusually long — 91 minutes, split into two segments — and sophisticated in its production quality, compared with previous al-Qaida videos. The footage — with English subtitles — surfaced on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the attacks, on a Web site that frequently airs messages from bin Laden's terror network.

"Planning for Sept. 11 did not take place behind computer monitors or radar screens, nor inside military command and control centers, but was surrounded with divine protection in an atmosphere brimming with brotherliness ... and love for sacrificing life," an unidentified narrator said.

The video released Sunday, stamped with the emblem of As-Sahab, al-Qaida's media branch, was titled "Knowledge is For Acting Upon" and subtitled "The Manhattan Raid."

It showed the al-Qaida leader meeting with colleagues in a mountain camp believed to be in Afghanistan, as well as video clips of Vice President Dick Cheney defending his old job at the oil company Halliburton, and President Bush at his inauguration. Other scenes show training at the camp, with masked militants doing martial arts kicks and practicing hiding and pulling out knives.

It included the last testament of two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Wail al-Shehri and Hamza al-Ghamdi, and showed bin Laden strolling in the camp, greeting followers.

"Among the devout group which responded to the order of Allah and order of his messenger were the heroes of Sept. 11, who wrote with the ink of their blood the greatest pages of modern history," the narrator said, referring to the hijackers who flew planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Al-Shehri and al-Ghamdi were each shown speaking to the camera, their image superimposed over background pictures of the crumbling World Trade Center towers and the burning Pentagon, as well as a model of a passenger jet.

They both spoke of how Muslims must stand up to fight back against the West.

"If we are content with being humiliated and inclined to comfort, the tooth of the enemy will stretch from Jerusalem to Mecca, and then everyone will regret on a day when regret is of no use," al-Ghamdi said.

The two videotaped final statements had never been seen before.

Al-Shehri was on American Flight 11, which was the first to hit the World Trade Center. Al-Ghamdi was on United Flight 175, which hit the second tower.

In the footage, bin Laden wore a dark robe and white headdress, and was shown sitting alongside his former lieutenant Mohammed Atef and Ramzi Binalshibh, another suspected planner of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, was killed by a U.S. airstrike on Afghanistan in 2001. Binalshibh was captured four years ago in Pakistan and is currently in U.S. custody, and last week Bush announced plans to put him on military trial.

Bin Laden was shown expressing his appreciation for the Taliban, the Islamic regime that ran Afghanistan and gave refuge to al-Qaida until the U.S.-led invasion toppled them in late 2001.

The video showed events up to 10 years before the Sept. 11 attacks — U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War and bin Laden preaching to followers after the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Sudan. It also showed events afterward including a man in an orange jumpsuit at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It was unclear when the tape was made, or how soon before the Sept. 11 attacks the footage of bin Laden was recorded.

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