Qaeda's Zawahri urges attacks on Darfur peacekeepers

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DUBAI, Sep 20 (Reuters) Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Sudanese Muslims in a video posted today to fight a force of African Union and UN peacekeepers set to deploy to Sudan's volatile western region of Darfur.

In an 80-minute compilation video that touched on a several conflicts, Zawahri criticised Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's decision to accept a UN resolution that lays the ground for a 26,000-strong joint AU-UN operation.

''Bashir announced before that he would oppose the deployment of international troops to Darfur ... but this was a lie ... and he backtracked step by step until he had agreed to everything they imposed on him,'' Zawahri said in the tape.

Zawahri accused Bashir of abandoning his Muslim brothers to appease the United States and said he did not deserve the protection of Muslims.

''Therefore, I address the nation of Muslim mujahideen in Sudan and remind it that today's is a great test and the free mujahideen sons of Sudan must organise jihad against the forces invading Darfur as their brothers organised the jihadi resistance in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia,'' Zawahri said.

Al Qaeda-linked groups have waged attacks on US-led forces and their allies in Afghanistan and Iraq after the invasions of 2001 and 2003. In Somalia, Islamists the United States says are linked to al Qaeda have been waging a guerrilla campaign against a US-supported transitional government.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Darfur earlier this month, promising to step up pressure for a political solution to the festering conflict.

Sudan, which hosted al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1993.

REUTERS SKB PM1510

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