Qaeda says N Africa must be cleansed of French, Spanish

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DUBAI, Sep 20 (Reuters) Al Qaeda's second-in-command urged north Africa's Muslims in a video tape posted today to ''cleanse'' their land of Spaniards and French as a way to restore Muslim rule that once stretched into southern Europe.

In an 80-minute compilation video that touched on several conflicts around the world, Ayman al-Zawahri said it was the duty of Muslims to restore al-Andalus -- the Arabic name given to parts of the Iberian peninsula under Muslim rule at various times from the 8th century.

''O our Muslim nation in the Maghreb .... restoring al-Andalus is a trust on the shoulders of the nation in general and on your shoulders in particular, and you will not be able to do that without first cleansing the Muslim Maghreb of the children of France and Spain, who have come back again after your fathers and grandfathers sacrificed their blood cheaply in the path of God to expel them,'' he said.

''So be faithful to your religion ... and to the blood of your fathers, and stand with your sons the mujahideen against the Crusaders and their children.'' Al Qaeda's north African wing, called al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for two suicide attacks earlier this month that killed at least 57 people in Algeria.

North African countries have stepped up security coordination to counter armed groups seeking to establish Islamic rule in a region on Europe's southern flank that depends to a large extent on oil and gas exports and tourism.

Conflict broke out in Algeria in 1992 after military-backed authorities scrapped elections that an Islamist party was set to win. The authorities had feared an Islamic revolution.

The Egyptian cleric praised the actions of militants in north Africa, and suggested they were responsible for the creation of a new US military command for Africa.

''The forces of jihad ... in the Maghreb of Islam joined the mujahid ranks confronting the new Crusade... and so the hearts of the Caesars of Washington came apart, and they set out to plan the creation of a new command for them in Africa,'' he said.


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