DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has asked his deputy to remind Islamic militants they should avoid attacks on civilian targets, the group’s No. 2 said in a message posted on the Internet on Thursday.
“There are certain operations attributed, rightly or falsely, to the mujahideen, in which Muslims are attacked in their mosques, market places or gatherings ... I and my brothers in al Qaeda distance ourselves ... from such operations and condemn them,” Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio recording.
Taliban leader Mullah Omar, bin Laden and other militant figures have taken similar stands earlier, Zawahri said, but added that bin Laden wanted this pointed out again.
“Sheikh Osama bin Laden ... assigned me again to reiterate this matter. Therefore I urge the mujahideen to consider the rulings of sharia (Islamic law) and the interests of Muslims before undertaking any jihad operation,” he said.
Militants should refrain from indiscriminate attacks on “Muslim or non-Muslims”, Zawahri said, without referring to any particular attack.
Zawahri said a New Year’s Day bombing that killed 23 people at a Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt was caused by church leaders’ “transgressions” against Muslims, but he denied that al Qaeda had any links to the attack.
An al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq has frequently claimed responsibility for bombings resulting in civilian deaths.
Al Qaeda was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities which killed about 3,000 people.
The recording could not be independently authenticated but it was posted on Islamist websites which are often used by al Qaeda supporters and the speaker sounded like Zawahri.
Zawahri’s message, drawn up in response to the popular revolt in his home country Egypt, was the second part of a recording which carried the date of an Islamic month which ended about one week before President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11.
Washington believes Zawahri, deputy to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is hiding with other senior al Qaeda figures in mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Reporting by Firouz Sedarat