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Al Qaeda No. 2 speaks on Gaza flotilla incident

By the CNN Wire Staff
The speaker, identified as Ayman al-Zawahiri, said Turkish leaders should "stop recognizing Israel."
The speaker, identified as Ayman al-Zawahiri, said Turkish leaders should "stop recognizing Israel."
  • Ayman al-Zawahiri says Turkey should stop recognizing Israel
  • In audio message, he decries blockade of Gaza
  • The May 31 flotilla incident left 9 Turkish activists dead

(CNN) -- In an audio message released Sunday, a speaker identified as al Qaeda's second-in-command offers condolences to the Turkish people on the loss of nine activists in a May 31 Israeli raid on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza.

The incident badly frayed Israel's once-close relationship with Turkey. The speaker, who was identified as Ayman al-Zawahiri, said in the message the incident underscores the need for Turkey to stop cooperating with or recognizing Israel.

"Change will come when the Turkish people demand that their government ceases all aspects of cooperation with Israel and stop recognizing Israel and when they ask their government to stop sending their (Turkish) armed forces to fight the Muslims in Afghanistan and end their battle against Islam and the Sharia," al-Zawahiri said.

The message is identified as being a production of As-Sahab production, a company typically handles al Qaeda communications. Although CNN cannot independently authenticate the audio message, it appeared on various radical Islamist websites known for posting similiar statements, messsages and recruitment videos by al Qaeda figures.

In the message, titled "A Message to the Turkish Muslim people," the speaker said the blockade of Gaza by Israel "is another form of the criminal acts waged against the Muslim world by the Crusader Zionist alliance."

"We must change this disgusting reality that we live in," he said. "This will not take place by sending (a) few relief aid ships or starting one demonstration or another."

"The Turkish people need to restore the glorious role of the Ottoman Empire when they used to defend every Muslim land from all outsiders," he said. "The role of the Turkish Muslim people cannot be minimized into an aid ship or two that are being sent to Gaza."

Israel has maintained its troops used force on the activists after they were attacked by those on board one boat in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara. Soldiers were attacked with knives, metal poles and other objects, Israeli officials have said. But passengers on board the boat insist Israeli troops fired on them without provocation.

In the Sunday message, the speaker said Turkey condemns the "Israeli crimes against our Muslim brothers in Gaza, but still they commit the exact crimes against the Muslims in Afghanistan ... The Turkish people must stand up and be responsible for their government's action in recognizing those who violated and stole the land in Palestine and end the collaboration with the crusaders in killing Muslims in Afghanistan."

The last message purporting to be from al-Zawahiri was on July 27, when he mourned the loss of al Qaeda senior commander Sheikh Mustafa Abu Yazid, killed along with family members. He also called on Muslims to unite behind al Qaeda and wage jihad against their governments if they want change.

CNN's Saad Abedine contributed to this report.