In the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said that al-Qaida now views "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us."
The Egyptian-born physician said that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Palestinian militants would not be ended with "cease-fires or agreements."
"It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahri said. "We will attack everywhere." Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims for more than seven centuries until they were driven from power in 1492.
He said Arab regimes were accomplices to Israel. "My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit ... and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies ... make yourselves martyrs."
He also called for the "downtrodden" throughout the world, not just Muslims, to join the battle against "tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America."
"Stand with Muslims in confronting this unprecedented oppression and tyranny. Stand with us as we stand with you against this injustice that was forbidden by God in his book (the Quran)," al-Zawahri said.
Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981 to 1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the al-Qaida No. 2's outreach to Shiites and non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a major change in tactics.
"This is a transformation in the vision of al-Qaida and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight," he said.
Al-Zawahri wore a gray robe and white turban in the video. A picture of the burning World Trade Center was on the wall behind him along with photos of two other militants. One appeared to be a bearded Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks. The other was Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, a former top lieutenant of bin Laden who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in November 2001.
Al-Qaida calls for holy war against Israel
Willa Thayer, AP, July 27, 2006
Contrary to the many Bin Laden audiotapes this message was a video recording which is likely more difficult to fake and thus there is more of a chance that this one was genuine. It shows an organization that in many ways acknowledges its failure and is trying to gain momentum by issuing a truly unprecedented call for unity.