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New Qaeda chief urges Islamic rule in Libya

Al-Qaeda’s new leader is calling on Libyan fighters who overthrew Muammar Qaddafi to set up an Islamic state and urges Algerians to revolt against their longtime leader in remarks in a new Internet video.

Ayman al-Zawahri warns Libyan revolutionaries to protect their gains against “Western plots,” claiming NATO will demand that Libyans give up their Islamic faith.

“The first thing that this NATO will ask of you is to relinquish your Islam,” Zawahiri said according to a translation provided by U.S. monitoring service SITE, dismissing the military alliance as a “Western gang”.

“Be careful of the plots of the West and its henchmen while you are building your new state. Don’t allow them to deceive you and steal your sacrifices and suffering.”

Zawahiri, wearing white, was shown sitting in a cloth-covered chair in front of a green backdrop in the 13-minute video released on extremist forums, SITE said.

The veteran Egyptian militant and long-time al-Qaeda number two took over the jihadist network after Osama Bin Laden was killed in a clandestine raid by U.S. Navy commandos in Pakistan on May 2.

Zawahri also urges Algerians to “revolt against the tyranny” of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and follow the examples of Arab uprisings.

“And if I congratulated our people in Libya for their victory over the tyrant, I call upon our people in Algeria to follow their footsteps,” Zawahiri said in the video.

“Here are your brothers in Tunisia and then in Libya having thrown out the two tyrants to the trash can of history, so why don’t you revolt against your tyrant?”

Bouteflika’s government has faced protests resembling those that ousted neighboring Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but the protest movement has been successfully contained by security forces.

The video is the latest in which the militant chief, who is now Washington’s most wanted man, has attempted to seize on the “Arab Spring” revolutions.

Al-Qaeda has been absent from the popular protests that have swept the Arab world this year leading to the fall of leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and provoking major unrest elsewhere.

Analysts argue that the phenomenon has left the global terror outfit weakened and increasingly irrelevant.

The United States said last month that it believed Zawahiri, who has been in hiding since the United States declared a “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks, was still in Pakistan.

In the 13-minute video that surfaced on militant websites on Wednesday, Zawahiri also praised a militant attack in southern Israel in August, when gunmen crossed from Egypt and killed eight Israelis near a Red Sea resort.