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Al Qaeda Threatens U.S., Britain

Al Qaeda's No. 2 on Thursday embraced the London suicide bombings, warned Britain more destruction lay ahead and promised tens of thousands of U.S. casualties in Iraq in a brazen assertion of terror group's global reach.

Four weeks to the day after suicide bombers killed 56 people on subway trains and a bus in London, Al-Jazeera television broadcast the tape by Ayman al-Zawahri in which he also renewed terror threats to other countries with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming they had shunned Osama bin Laden's offer last year of a truce if foreign forces left the battleground.

In London, thousands of police monitored the streets and subways. Not, officials say, in response to specific intelligence, CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports, but because London is still under major threat.

Al-Zawahri made no direct claim that al Qaeda carried out the July 7 attacks in the British capital, but sought instead to blame to carnage on Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to deploy and keep troops in Iraq. Britain maintains 8,500 forces mainly in southern Iraq.

"Blair has brought to you destruction in central London, and he will bring more of that, God willing," al-Zawahri said in the tape, which was excerpted by the pan-Arab satellite channel.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports that in Crawford, Texas, President Bush said the latest threats from al-Zawahri make it clear that Iraq is part of a war on terror. He said al Qaeda is trying to force the United States out of Iraq, but it won't succeed.

Mr. Bush dismissed al-Zawahri's threat, saying, "We will stay on the offense against these people. They're terrorists and they're killers and they will kill innocent people ... so they can impose their dark vision on the world."

In London, Blair's Downing Street office declined to comment on the tape.

Jeremy Bennie, a terrorism analyst for Jane's Defense Weekly, said al-Zawahri appeared to be trying to put an al Qaeda stamp on the London attacks.

"He has tacitly taken responsibility by claiming al Qaeda is in control of the situation, even as most people aren't really sure bin Laden and al-Zawahri still are capable of organizing such an attack," Bennie said in a telephone interview.

Thursday marked the seventh time al-Zawahri has used video- or audiotapes to speak on behalf of al Qaeda since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The latest appearance followed the Egyptian-born physician's pattern of issuing threats on further death and destruction if the United States and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan refuse to withdraw troops from the region, including Saudi Arabia — home to two of Islam's holiest shrines.

Al-Zawahri issued the fresh threats with a Kalashnikov rifle propped against a woven cloth background that moved with the wind and showed the sunlight, suggesting the scene was filmed outdoors. He was wearing a white robe and a black turban and emphatically wagged his finger at the camera while speaking.

The black turban — a distinct change from the white turban he has worn in past videos — is "a sign that its time of war," said Montasser el-Zayat, an Egyptian attorney who defends Islamic radicals and who spent three years in prison with al-Zawahri. The prophet Muhammad and his followers wore black turbans during their invasions in the Arabian Peninsula, he said.

Al-Zawahri is "exploiting the whole atmosphere following London and Sharm el-Sheik explosions to carry out the sort of instigation that propels more operations," el-Zayat said.

As the Iraqi insurgency led by bin Laden's Jordanian comrade Abu Musab al-Zarqawi continued killing Iraqis and American forces almost at will, al-Zawahri promised more savagery.

"What you have seen in New York and Washington, you Americans, and the losses you see in Afghanistan and Iraq — despite all the media blackout are merely the losses from the initial clashes," he said.

"If you go on with the same policy of aggression against Muslims, you will see, God willing, what will make you forget the horrible things in Vietnam," he said.

He declared that the Bush administration was repeating in Iraq the "same lies" of Presidents Johnson and Nixon in Vietnam, that they were "defending freedom."

"There is no exit from Iraq except in immediate withdrawal. Any delay in taking that decision means nothing but more dead, more losses," he said. "If you don't leave today, certainly you will leave tomorrow, but after tens of thousands of dead and double the number of disabled and wounded."

Bennie said al-Zawahri might have been using the video as a vehicle for reissuing an offer of a truce.

"This seems to say you have another chance to pull out and you won't be hit again," the analyst said, declaring the statement coercive and not credible.

He noted that most observers believed the March 11, 2004, Madrid train attacks, which killed 191 people, were designed to push Spaniards to vote for the Socialist opposition in elections three days later. In the voting, the Conservative government, which had sent troops to Iraq was swept from power. The new government ordered Spanish troops to return home.

"That didn't prevent a foiled attempt to bomb a high-speed train carrying a thousand people after the election. And members of the cell still had the wherewithal to blow themselves up when cornered," Bennie said.

Seven suspects in the Madrid bombings committed collective suicide on April 3. The bombers, including several ringleaders, killed themselves in a massive explosion an apartment in Leganes as police moved in to arrest them.

Bennie also noted that it was exactly two weeks ago that four other London bombers tried to repeat the July 7 attacks, setting off detonators in three subway trains and a bus. The charges attached to the detonators did not explode and no one was hurt.

"Everyone was a bit edgy today on the trains, what with it being a month after the first attack and two weeks after the second attempt. A threat (from al-Zawahri) instead of an attack is much to be preferred," he said.

In London, a sea of 6,000 police flooded the streets and the Underground, CBS' Aleen Sirgany reports, but the security hike was explained to the public as unrelated to the terror warning. The massive security operation Thursday was said to be intended to reassure the public four weeks after the July 7 bombings that killed 56 people and two weeks after the failed July 21 attacks.

Officials stressed there was no specific intelligence of a third attack, but undercover police were mingling with passengers, and officers were armed with machine guns and pistols. Police helicopters hovered above while traffic was heavier than normal.

Taahir Hoorzook, of the media relations department in Al-Jazeera, said the broadcaster received the al-Zawahri tape Thursday. "It was left at one of our offices, and we got it from there," he said, declining to name the location of the office.

The tape is about five minutes long and Al-Jazeera aired only 10 percent of the tape, he said. "The content of the rest of the tape which we didn't air, is the usual rhetoric, speaking about the Islamic lands occupied and stuff like that which we found not newsworthy," Hoorzook said.

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