Alleged al Qaeda tape threatens U.S., allies
Voice claims to be bin Laden's deputy
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- A new audiotape purported to be from Osama bin Laden's top aide threatens that the United States and its allies will pay a "very high price" if any of the men held at Guantanamo Bay are harmed.
The tape was aired on the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya Arabic-language network, and the speaker claims to be Ayman al-Zawahiri -- regarded as bin Laden's right-hand man and the second-highest-ranking al Qaeda official.
"The crusader America will pay a very high price for any harm that will affect any of the prisoners that they are holding," the voice says.
"Those who are allies or helping America will pay the same price. Those who are handing over our brothers will pay the same price."
The United States is holding more than 600 alleged al Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan at the base in Cuba.
It would not be the first tape released with al-Zawahiri's voice; one was released just after the bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May, in which nearly simultaneous blasts at three compounds housing Westerners killed 23 people, including nine Americans.
The recording makes no mention of bin Laden, and Al-Arabiya did not say how it obtained the tape.
The tape also tells those "working or cooperating" with the United States that America is too weak to protect either itself or its allies.
If the United States should prosecute those being held at Guantanamo, the speaker says, "it is sentencing its own people.
"We don't expect any justice from America," the voice says.
"We are saying to America one thing: What you saw with your eyes so far are only the first tactics we are using. The real battle didn't start yet."
Investigators believe al-Zawahiri played an important role in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
He is on the U.S. government's list of most-wanted terrorists, and was indicted in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Al-Zawahiri remains at large, but the latest intelligence suggests that he is not far from bin Laden, somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Al-Zawahiri is bin Laden's closest adviser, as well as his doctor.
He has made frequent appearances at bin Laden's side, usually in a trio completed by al Qaeda's military committee commander, Mohammed Atef, who was killed in November 2001 during an airstrike in Afghanistan.