UK: "No fondness for the Pentagon's politics": An open letter by Salman Rushdie
As to Iraq, it is true that I wrote, before the beginning of the Iraq war, that there was a case to be made for the removal of Saddam Hussain. In the same article, however, I also wrote that the American plans for regime change, unsupported as they were by a broad international coalition, were not justifiable.
Since that time, anyone with the slightest knowledge of my activities in the US must know that, as president of PEN American Center, I led that organisation in a number of campaigns against the Bush administration's policies, that I participated in any number of anti-war events and that in my public lectures all over America I have for years been a vocal critic of the Iraq war. It is bizarre and untruthful to say that I have a "fondness for the Pentagon's politics".
9 July 2007
Osama bin Laden's deputy warned Gordon Brown yesterday that Britain would be hit with "a very precise response" in retaliation for the knighthood given to the novelist Salman Rushdie. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two in al-Qaida, made the threat in an audio tape produced by the organisation's media wing, as-Sahhab, and distributed to jihadi websites yesterday.
The Egyptian's 20-minute speech was entitled Malicious Britain and its Indian Slaves and was monitored by Site, a US-based group.
Zawahiri, deliverer of most recent al-Qaida messages, accused Britain of defying the Muslim world by honouring the author of The Satanic Verses, who was deemed to have insulted Islam.
Addressing the prime minister, he said: "The policy of your predecessor has brought tragedy and defeat upon you, not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in the centre of London. And if you did not understand, listen, we are ready to repeat it for you, with the permission of Allah. We are sure that you have quite understood it."
Diaa Rashwan, an expert on jihadi groups at Cairo's al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said : "This is part of an attempt to encourage the al-Qaida franchise, not an operational order. I don't think it exists any more as a centralised organisation. Zawahiri and Bin Laden often threaten individual countries."
A Downing Street spokesman, while not responding directly to Zawahiri's remarks, said last night: "As the prime minister has said we will not allow terrorists to undermine the British way of life. The British people will remain united, resolute and strong."
The Foreign Office said that it would maintain efforts to thwart terrorists. A spokesman said: "We will continue to tackle the threat from international terrorism as a priority in order to prevent the risk of attacks on British interests at home and overseas, including from al-Qaida. These terrorists care nothing for the peoples of the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Qaida has been killing civilians of all faiths, including many fellow Muslims, for years."
Intelligence experts believe Zawahiri is in Afghanistan or in a rugged border area of Pakistan. The image of him used to accompany this latest message was identical to one used in a Sahhab release last month, marking 40 years since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The message was his ninth this year. His most recent videotape, which lasted 95 minutes, appeared only last week, suggesting an attempt to step up propaganda efforts. That singled out the al-Yamamah defence contract between Britain and Saudi Arabia.
Zawahiri suggested Rushdie's knighthood was motivated by anger, claiming the Queen and Tony Blair meant to tell Muslims that though British forces may be defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, they can take revenge by cursing their prophet.
The Foreign Office reiterated that the award was purely in recognition of his literary achievements. "The government have already made clear that Rushdie's honour was not intended as an insult to Islam or the prophet Muhammad," the spokesman said. "It was a reflection of his contribution to literature throughout a long and distinguished career." Zawahiri also attacked Hamas for accepting Saudi mediation to broker a deal with the rival Fatah movement and railed against Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, declaring that opposition to him should not be through "farcical" elections, but by supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ominously he praised a car bomb attack which killed six Spanish UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon last month. He warned that "those who conspire against jihad and the mujahideen in Lebanon ... must start to dig their graves with their own hands." "The Jews and the Americans are not from the planet Mars, but they are on our borders and in our land with their gear, equipment, and numbers," he said. The answer was to confront these enemies with "jihad and unity", he said.
Ayman al-Zawahiri is Osama bin Laden's deputy and regarded as the strategic brains behind al-Qaida. A qualified surgeon, he was born in Egypt in 1951. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 14 but then moved on to the more radical Islamic Jihad where he became a prominent organiser. He was one of hundreds arrested following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. In the 1980s he went to Afghanistan to join the mujahideen resistance against the Soviet Union's occupation. There he met Bin Laden. In 1998 he formally merged Egyptian Islamic Jihad into al-Qaida and, with Bin Laden, issued a joint fatwa with the title World Islamic Front Against Jews and Crusaders. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri's whereabouts are unknown, but he is generally thought to be in tribal Pakistan.
11 July 2007
By: Ian Black
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