In a second audio recording in 24 hours, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden said governments of Muslim nations have not done enough to help Pakistanis hit by floods that killed hundreds and displaced millions.
As in the earlier recording, bin Laden’s criticism was measured in the message released Saturday on militant websites. The tone contrasted sharply with past videos and recordings in which he and his deputies called for the leaders of Muslim nations like his native Saudi Arabia and Egypt to be overthrown.
By avoiding his familiar calls for attacks on the West and the toppling of U.S.-allied regimes in the Arab world and instead speaking of humanitarian causes like the floods in Pakistan and issues like climate change, bin Laden appears to be trying to broaden al-Qaida’s appeal beyond its traditional extremist support base.
Still, he singles out Arab leaders, accusing them of failing to respond to a calamity in a fellow Muslim nation and asserting that the U.N. chief did more than them to help Pakistan.
“The (U.N.’s) secretary-general came to witness the catastrophe for himself, and yet no Arab leaders came to witness the disaster despite the short distances and claims of brotherhood,” he said.
A copy of the 13-minute audiotape, entitled “Help your Pakistani Brothers,” was made available by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi forums. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed, though the voice resembled that of bin Laden in confirmed messages by him.
The recording was aired along with a still photograph of a smiling bin Laden superimposed over pictures of flood victims.
The message was similar to the recording released Friday in which bin Laden called for the establishment of a relief organization to prevent flooding in Muslim nations, create development projects in impoverished regions and improve agriculture to guarantee food security.
In Saturday’s message, bin Laden accused the media of failing to cover the flooding tragedy effectively or provide “the real picture” of natural disasters in the Muslim world. Journalists should also increase coverage of climate change, he said.
While bin Laden’s recent messages have avoided talk of violence, U.S. counterterrorism officials said Friday they believe he and other senior al-Qaida leaders were involved in a recently uncovered plan for coordinated shooting rampages or attacks in Britain, France and Germany.
The accusation raised speculation bin Laden might be seeking to show al-Qaida’s besieged Pakistan-based core remains able to launch attacks on Western targets.
Two earlier videos from other al-Qaida figures about the flooding in Pakistan took a sharply militant tone. The United States and Pakistani officials have often expressed fears that militant groups in Pakistan could drum up support by exploiting frustration among Pakistanis who feel aid has not reached them quickly following the floods that swept through the country starting in late July.
International donors have pledged more than $800 million for flood relief in Pakistan, the bulk of it coming from the United States which has donated nearly $350 million. The United Nations last month hiked up its call for aid, seeking to raise $2 billion for Pakistan’s flood victims, its largest humanitarian appeal ever.
Arab nations in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also launched relief appeals and delivered aid to Pakistan.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)