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Qaeda’s Zawahri threatens more attacks in UK

UAE: Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, on Tuesday threatened more attacks on Britain, two weeks after two failed bombings and criticised the country’s decision to award author Salman Rushdie a knighthood.

“I say to (Former British Prime Minister Tony) Blair’s successor that the policy of your predecessor drew catastrophes in Afghanistan and Iraq and even in the centre of London,” the Egyptian cleric said in an audio tape posted on the Internet.

“If you did not learn the lesson then we are ready to repeat it, God willing, until we are sure you have fully understood.”

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the 20-minute tape, which appeared on a Web site used by al Qaeda-linked groups with a still photograph of Zawahri.

The recording came just days after two car bombs were found in London and a fuel-packed jeep was rammed into Glasgow Airport in Scotland — botched attacks which Prime Minister Gordon Brown said were associated with al Qaeda.

Zawahri also attacked Britain’s controversial decision to award Rushdie a knighthood, saying Queen Elizabeth had sent a clear message to Muslims by honouring a novelist who had insulted Islam, and said the group was preparing a response.

Zawahri said the least Muslims could do was to boycott British goods to protest Rushdie’s knighthood.

A spokesman for Brown rejected Zawahri’s comments.

“We do not intend to dignify this with a response,” the spokesman said. “As the prime minister has said, the British people will remain united, resolute and strong and we will not allow terrorists to undermine the British way of life.”

Zawahri, who has spoken out regularly in audio-taped messages in recent months, also called on Muslims in Pakistan to fight President Pervez Musharraf, whose forces killed a rebel Islamist leader and more than 50 militants on Tuesday when they stormed an Islamabad mosque compound after a week-long siege.

“An Islamic emirate in Afghanistan is the hope for real change in the region and hopefully the final blow to the Crusaders ... in South Asia.”

Zawahri, who last year called for attacks on United Nations peacekeepers patrolling Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, also blessed a bombing that killed six Spanish troops in June and called for more.

Zawahri repeated earlier calls on Hamas to reject all international accords with Israel, U.N. resolutions and a Saudi-brokered deal with the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. White House calls meeting on al Qaeda threat.Meanwhile the White House has called an urgent multi-agency meeting today discuss a potential new al Qaeda threat on U.S. soil, ABC News reported on Tuesday.

Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have been told to meet in the White House Situation Room to report on steps to minimize or counter the threat and what steps are being taken to tighten security at government buildings, ABC said.

The meeting would be one of a number convened in light of new intelligence and information learned from the recent failed car bomb attempts in London, ABC reported, citing a senior U.S. administration official.

The unnamed official told ABC the level of concern of a new attack in the United States was now higher than it had been in some time.

A White House spokeswoman confirmed that after the attempted attacks in the United Kingdom, the U.S. government convened meetings to discuss the situation but added there was no credible evidence of an imminent threat.

“Counter-terrorism officials regularly meet, that is not unusual. We are taking all threats seriously and working to ensure we can keep the terrorists from striking at innocent people,” White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said in an e-mail.

Law enforcement officials said the botched bombings in London provided clues about possible tactics, ABC reported.

Dubai, Washington, Wednsday, Reuters.



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