Has al Qaeda been hit by the recession? Bin Laden's deputy asks Pakistanis to fund fight against the U.S.

The Mail, UK/July 16, 2009

Osama bin Laden's number two appealed for money today in a sign that the economic crisis is even taking its toll on terrorism.

Stressing the need for funds, Ayman al-Zawahri called on Muslims to rise up against the United States – or at least donate some cash for the cause.

His appeal echoes one made by Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed, al Qaeda's top commander in Afghanistan, who complained that militants in the region were hampered by a lack of equipment and money.

Al-Zawahri's plea was particularly aimed at Pakistan, where public opinion appears to be swinging against Al Qaeda to support army offensives to root the fundamentalist fighters out of strongholds along the border with Afghanistan.

'It is the individual duty of every Muslim in Pakistan to join the Mujahedeen, or at the very least, to support the Jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan with money,' he said.

He warned that without help 'we shall not only contribute to the destruction of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we shall also deserve the painful punishment of Almighty Allah.'

The audio tape was released to Islamic web sites. Al-Zawahri and bin Laden are thought to be hiding in Pakistan's lawless mountainous border, which has been the focus of numerous US air strikes.

At America's urging, Pakistan's government threw its military might behind a thrust to push back Taliban and al Qaeda militants to protect its nuclear arsenal.

Trying to stir up support, al-Zawahri claimed Pakistan is really ruled by Washington.

'The current ruling class in Pakistan is lining up under the cross of the modern crusade and competing for American bribes,' he said.

He claimed rebellion was Pakistan's only hope because the political institutions were 'either sunk in the swamp of corruption or are too helplessly crippled and paralysed to bring about any change.'

However, the government crackdown against the militants is gaining in support in Pakistan.

Growing numbers of Pakistanis who once hailed bin Laden as a hero who defied America have become repulsed by al Qaeda suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of people, such as last year's attacks on the Marriott Hotel and the Danish Embassy in Islamabad.

More than two million people were forced to leave their homes in Pakistan's Swat Valley because of the clashes between the militants and government forces.

There was also a backlash against the Taliban after a video was broadcast showing a turbaned fighter flogging a young woman.

A recent survey showed that 81 per cent of Pakistanis believe the activities of the Taliban and other Muslim extremists were a 'critical threat' to the country, up from the 34 per cent polled on the same question in September 2007.

Eighty-two percent said bin Laden's Al Qaeda was also a critical threat, exactly twice as many who thought so two years ago.

The poll was carried out by Socio-Economic Development Consultants in Islamabad.

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