A purported new audiotape of Osama bin Laden, a tribute to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader who was killed earlier this month in a U.S. missile strike on his Iraq hideout, has been posted on the Internet.
In the 19-minute, 32-second tape, the voice, which sounds like bin Laden, praises al Zarqawi highly, calls him "the Knight of Islam" and prays that he is accepted as a martyr.
He says al Zarqawi provides a great example of how to rebel against tyrants, and he calls President Bush the "pharaoh of his time" and says he arrogantly invaded Iraq in spite of the objections of the world.
The statement is full of poetry, including a long one he recites at the end, which he says was written by someone called Sheikh Youssef Abu Helala.
The voice identified as bin Laden says that when the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, al Zarqawi and a group of 17 men agreed to fight, even though they only had a small number of Kalashnikovs, mines and bazookas. He recalls that al Zarqawi had fought against the Russians in Afghanistan and says he was therefore not afraid of the idea of fighting a major power.
He also defends al Zarqawi against those who claimed he killed innocent people, and he seems to try to justify attacks on Shiites in Iraq by saying that people who agree to fight on the side of "the crusaders" -- the coalition troops -- have to be fought regardless of their sect.
He says that Bush should give al Zarqawi's body to his family and says "the flag has not fallen thanks be to God, but it has moved from a lion to a lion from the lion of Islam. We will continue -- God willing -- to fight you and your allies everywhere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan until we deplete your resources, kill your men and (force you) to return defeated to your lands as we have defeated you before -- God willing -- in Somalia."