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Al-Zawahiri downplays U.S. efforts in Afghanistan

U.N. report: No shortage of terrorism recruits worldwide

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Ayman al-Zawahiri in a videotape released Monday

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(CNN) -- In a videotape that aired Monday on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, downplayed U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and again claimed responsibility for the July bombings in London.

Meanwhile, a United Nations panel of experts issued a report Monday saying there is no shortage of recruits for terrorism worldwide and that Iraq has provided new training ground for them, replacing al Qaeda bases lost in Afghanistan.

"Al Qaeda has managed to recover from the loss of Afghanistan as a training base for terrorism by exploiting the situation in Iraq," the report said.

The report was the third by an expert panel set up by the U.N. Security Council to monitor al Qaeda, the Taliban and their associates.

Recruits travel to Iraq from many parts of the world, "acquire skills in urban warfare, bomb-making, assassination and suicide attacks," and return to integrate with local fighters in their home countries, the report said.

Second al-Zawahiri tape

The authenticity of the tape that aired Monday on Al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, has yet to be verified.

It showed al-Zawahiri being interviewed by an unknown questioner. He wore a black turban and white shirt, without his typical black vest, seen in past videos.

He referred to those who carried out the London attacks as "heroes" who offered "many profound lessons to the Muslim nation at large and to the Muslims in Pakistan in particular to disobey the impostors."

A July 7 attack on London's transit system killed 52 commuters and the four bombers. No one was killed in a second, similar attempted attack July 21 in which bombs failed to detonate.

Al-Zawahiri also told the interviewer the Taliban remained as strong as ever in Afghanistan.

"They expelled the Taliban government from Kabul, so it relocated to the villages and mountains, where the true power in Afghanistan is," he said.

Voters in Afghanistan went to the polls Sunday amid heavy security to elect representatives to their national parliament and local legislators in 34 provinces.

"There is no reform except through jihad," al-Zawahiri said in the video. "We have to realize the nature of this conflict: Our enemies do not agree with or approve of our rights."

"Americans will not allow any Islamic regime to reach the position of governance except if it is an accomplice to the Americans, just like what is happening right now in Iraq."

It was not immediately clear when the video was made, but he did refer to an article by Indian-born British novelist Salman Rushdie published August 11 in the London Times.

The videotape was the second this month showing the 54-year-old Egyptian-born physician.

In a tape released September 1 and later verified as apparently genuine by the CIA, al-Zawahiri said British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his policies were responsible for the London attacks. He also sharply criticized President Bush.

"People of the crusader alliance behold the disasters that the policies of Bush and Blair will bring upon you and, God willing, on all of those who march behind them," al-Zawahiri said in the previous tape.

After the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the U.S. State Department offered a $25 million award for information leading to al-Zawahiri's apprehension.

Al Qaeda threats

The U.N. report issued Monday said the "most notable success" of al Qaeda was an agreement struck by bin Laden with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

The pact allowed bin Laden to claim world attention in "a key issue of the day" and helped al-Zarqawi to attract recruits "by adopting the al Qaeda mantle," the report said.

Al Qaeda also has benefited from another group: fighters who trained in Afghanistan and who are now "spread all over the world and actively providing expertise and leadership to local cells," the report said.

It said estimates of their numbers vary "but several thousand graduates of the Afghan camps survive."

The international community has now identified and is hunting many, and they have to use false identities and criminal means to survive, "which increases their risk of detection and arrest," the report said.

Nevertheless, the report said, this group provides "a significant backbone to the al Qaeda structure."

A third group is made up of new recruits radicalized by world events, by extremists in their communities or by terror Web sites and chat rooms on the Internet, the report said.

It said these cells are "emerging as the main threat posed by al Qaeda terrorism today" because they remain "independent, anonymous and largely invisible until they strike."

The report said the Taliban remain a localized but serious threat in Afghanistan.

The recent increase in violence and sophistication of weapons and communications systems "suggest an infusion of money [and] an ability to recruit younger and increasingly vicious supporters," the report said.

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