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Al Qaeda Chief Calls For Kidnap Of Westerners
The leader of al Qaeda has reportedly called on Muslims to kidnap Westerners, particularly Americans, so they can be exchanged for militants being held in jails.
Ayman al Zawahiri, who was previously the extremist movement's number two until the death of Osama bin Laden, said he hoped it would enable the freeing of an Egyptian convicted of attacking New York landmarks.
"I ask Allah the Glorious to help us set free Dr Omar Abdel-Rahman and the rest of the captive Muslims," Zawahiri said, according to the SITE website monitoring service.
"And I ask Allah to help us capture from among the Americans and the Westerners to enable us to exchange them for our captives."
Abdel-Rahman, known as The Blind Sheikh, is serving a life term in the US after being convicted in 1995 of conspiring to attack several New York City landmarks, including the United Nations.
Among the offences he was convicted of was seditious conspiracy in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Zawahiri's interview was posted online. Reuters said it could not verify the authenticity of the Zawahiri tape, but that the voice resembled that of the al Qaeda leader.
Egyptian-born Zawahiri went on to express solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood which is facing a violent crackdown by the army-backed government in his home country.
Asked about the crackdown, Zawahiri answered: "The duty on every Muslims is to deter the aggressor by any means, and especially the oppressed Muslims."
Security forces in Egypt have killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and arrested thousands, after the government that replaced them designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation last year.
Zawahiri also urged "jihad and overthrowing the criminal al Assad regime" in Syria.
In doing so, he renewed his call to end the growing amount of infighting among jihadists in that country.
As the rebellion against President Bashar al Assad has fragmented, the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had been fighting against rival rebels, as well as against the government.
He added: "The Ummah (Muslim world) must support this jihad with all that it can, and the mujahideen (Islamist militants) must unite around the word of Tawhid (unity).
"So everyone should prioritise the interest of Islam and the Ummah over his organisational or partisan interests, even if he gives up for his brothers what he sees as right."
The recording was said to be the second instalment of an the interview, the first part of which was posted a week ago. In that excerpt, Zawahiri insisted al Qaeda was holding strong and was "expanding".
Al Qaeda, which became world famous after 9/11, has been struggling to rebuild after the death of bin Laden who was killed in a US operation in Pakistan where he had been hiding out.