CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaida's leader on Friday marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by calling on Muslims to strike inside the United States, with big attacks or small, using any opportunity they can to "bleed" America financially.
In an audio message released two days after the 12th anniversary of the attacks, Ayman al-Zawahri said America is not a "mythic power" and that the mujahedeen — Islamic holy warriors — can defeat it with attacks "on its own soil."
Al-Zawahri, the successor to Osama bin Laden, used the anniversary to argue that the United States can be defeated by targeting its economy. At the same time, he also addressed the ongoing upheaval in the Arab world. Pointing to a power struggle going on within the rebellion against Syria's regime, he warned jihadi fighters in that country's civil war not "compromise" with more secular or moderate rebel factions, who he said would eventually turn against the al-Qaida-linked radicals.
The message's authenticity could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a militant website commonly used by al-Qaida.
Al-Zawahri, who is believed to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions, said al-Qaida sympathizers should stage small attacks or a "big strike" against the United States, similar to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, leaving America in "a state of tension" about when and where the next hit would come.
Small attacks could be done by only a few or even just one person, while at the same time "we must watch and wait to seize any opportunity to direct a large strike on (America), even if that takes years of patience to do it," he said.
"We should bleed America economically by motivating it to continue its huge expenditure on its security as America's weak point is its economy, which already has begun stumbling because of the military and security expenditure," he said. "America is not a mythic power and the Americans, after all, are humans who can be defeated, felled and punished."
He urged the Islamic world to "abandon the dollar and replace it with a currency of other countries that are not taking part in the aggression against us."
On Syria's civil war, al-Zawahri addressed al-Qaida-linked jihadis — including many foreign fighters — who have taken an increasingly prominent role in the fight against President Bashar Assad's regime. Their rise has caused tensions with more moderate Syrian rebel factions, even escalating to violence and turf battles. The United States and its allies have said they want to build up moderate rebel factions to reduce jihadi influence.
America wants to use "the Muslim people as a means to topple the pro-Iran Baathist regime and install a secular government and peaceful to Israel," al-Zawahri said. It "will try to push the mujahedeen to compromise with the secular factions and the enemies of Islam."
"I warn my brothers in Syria against any compromise with those factions. They have to learn the lesson of Egypt," al-Zawahri said. He was referring to the army-backed overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
Regarding Egypt — his homeland — al-Zawahri denounced what he called the "massacre" and 'savage crimes" in the crackdown by authorities on Morsi's Brotherhood and other Islamists. Still, he dismissed Morsi, saying he did not implement Shariah during his year in office and maintained Egypt's relations with Israel. Al-Zawahri said the crackdown targeted not the Brotherhood, but "the Islamic orientation" in general, because "our American enemies realize the dangers of raising the Islamic banner."
The military-backed authorities in Egypt have arrested several thousand Brotherhood members and Islamists. At the same time, the country has seen increasing violence by al-Qaida-inspired militants, who have stepped up attacks on the military and police in the Sinai Peninsula and have begun extending attacks to the capital, Cairo.