Bin Laden on tape again

CAIRO, Egypt – Osama bin Laden endorsed the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq in an Internet posting Saturday, and he warned Shiites there against collaborating with the United States in its fight against Sunni insurgents.

In his fifth audio message this year and his second in two days, bin Laden also warned nations not to send troops to Somalia, where Islamic militants have taken control of the capital and much of the country’s south.

Saturday’s message came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, started a regional tour seeking support from Sunni Arab countries for his national reconciliation plan that contains a conditional amnesty for insurgents, excluding al-Qaida members.

Notably, bin Laden’s voice in the 19-minute recording was much stronger than in the message that appeared Friday on the Web, reflecting the defiance of its content.

Although no date was given for bin Laden’s message, it was probably made after June 12, when al-Qaida announced that Abu Hamza al-Muhajer was the new head of its operations in Iraq.

Bin Laden gave his support to al-Muhajer, the replacement for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike June 7.

“I pray to God to make him the best successor to the best predecessor,” bin Laden said.

He urged him to step up “the struggle” to transform Iraq into the center of an Islamic Caliphate. On Friday, bin Laden paid tribute to al-Zarqawi, and denied that the terror organization was involved in sectarian strife in Iraq.

Bin Laden spoke about Iraq’s Shiites, referring to them indirectly as “sons of the south,” where they live in the largest numbers.

“We say that many sons of the south cannot just take part with America and its allies in invading Fallujah, Ramadi, Baqouba, Mosul, Samarra, Qaim and other cities and villages, and expect that their areas will be safe from a reaction and harm,” he said.

He called their political leaders “traitors” and “renegades.”

Unlike al-Zarqawi, bin Laden has not attacked Muslim Shiites or endorsed their killing. Previously, he even urged al-Zarqawi to avoid targeting them.

In an attempt to boost the morale of al-Qaida members in Iraq, bin Laden said that the Islamic community was depending on them.

“Your Muslim nation is looking to you and praying for your victory. … You are God’s trusted soldiers who will liberate the nation from the serfdom of the crusaders in our countries,” bin Laden’s message said.

“Stay steadfast and don’t leave Baghdad, otherwise all the capitals in the region will fall to the crusaders,” he said, referring to the U.S.-led coalition.

Addressing Somalia, which was largely taken over in June by an Islamic militant group, he urged Somalis to support the militants and said they were building an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa.

“You have no other means for salvation unless you commit to Islam, put your hands in the hands of the Islamic Courts to build an Islamic state in Somalia,” he said.

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