Karzai renews criticism of al-Zawahiri

June 23, 2006|By KIM BARKER | KIM BARKER,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

KABUL, Afghanistan -- After al-Qaida's deputy leader urged in a videotape that Afghans rise up against U.S.-led forces, President Hamid Karzai called Ayman al-Zawahiri the enemy of the people and said the Egyptian-born fugitive had killed thousands of Afghans.

The video, al-Zawahiri's sixth this year, was posted yesterday on an Islamic Web site and called "American Crimes in Kabul." It appeared to have been filmed just after the violence in Kabul on May 29 when at least 20 people died in rioting that erupted after a U.S. military truck ran into a dozen Afghan vehicles. The rioting was the deadliest in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

In his news conference, Karzai welcomed the help of the international community in tracking down al-Zawahiri and getting rid of terrorism. Karzai said al-Zawahiri had brought great suffering to Afghans long before the Sept. 11 attacks launched by al-Qaida, which eventually led to the fall of the Taliban and the flight of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.

"We in Afghanistan want him arrested and put before justice," Karzai said.

In the video, al-Zawahiri urged Muslims in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan to take an "honest stand in the face of the infidel forces that are invading Muslim lands." His message, in Arabic, was translated into both Afghan national languages, Pashto and Dari. It was unclear where al-Zawahiri was, though he is thought to be hiding along the mountainous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He sat in front of a black background with a rifle next to him.

His video was released the day after the U.S.-led coalition warned that more violence lies ahead in southern Afghanistan, where more than 10,000 foreign and Afghan troops are fighting an increasingly bold insurgency.

But the violence is not limited to the southern tribal belt of the country. Also yesterday, the U.S. military announced that four U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in fighting in a remote province in northeastern Afghanistan. Another soldier was injured.

"These insurgents only bring violence, fear and intimidation," Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, U.S. operational commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "They offer the people of Afghanistan nothing."

Planes and ground forces continued to fight in the remote area of Nuristan province throughout the night, but it was not clear whether they had any success.

In his news conference, Karzai praised the international community for helping fight terrorism but said foreign forces must change their tactics. He said he had urged foreign forces to take a new approach in the war on terror and to do a better job of rooting out the sources of terrorism.

The Afghan president said the international community has not done enough to stop terrorists' flow of money, training, equipment supply and motivation. He complained about the hundreds of Afghans being killed.

"We have seen in the past several weeks, 500 to 600 people have been killed," Karzai said. "Even if they are Taliban, they are the sons of this country. This should be stopped."

Since May, more than 600 people, mostly Taliban and other insurgents, have been killed in fighting in southern Afghanistan, along with at least 20 coalition soldiers.

Kim Barker writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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