Al-Qaeda's al-Zawahiri tells Egyptian Muslims fight is not with Christians
Al-Qaeda's leader has said Egypt's majority Muslims should not fight their Christian compatriots, and instead focus their efforts on opposing the military-backed authorities who ousted the country's Islamist president.
It was a rare call by Ayman al-Zawahiri in defence of Christians, who largely supported the coup against Mohammed Mursi and were subsequently targeted by a wave of violence.
In an audio message posted on militant websites, Zawahiri, an Egyptian, said it was not in the interest of Muslims to be engaged with the Christians because "we have to be busy confronting the Americanised coup of [General Abdel-Fattah] el-Sisi and establish an Islamic government."
Sisi, the defence minister, overthrew Mursi after protests demanding he step down. The Coptic church's head supported the coup along with other groups.
"We must not seek war with the Christians and thus give the West an excuse to blame Muslims, as has happened before," Zawahiri said.
He railed against Sisi in particularly strident terms, describing him as the same as the military strongmen who have led Egypt over the past 60 years. "He is a mercenary, an Americanised puppet, an imposter, treacherous and sinful with a history of bootlicking," Zawahiri said.
He also lashed out at Mursi, saying he had co-operated with secular Egyptians and surrendered to the Americans by acknowledging agreements with them and Israel.
Zawahiri urged the people of the Sinai Peninsula to support Palestinians in the neighbouring Gaza Strip and help break "the siege imposed by el-Sisi".
Regarding Syria, he said: "America got what it wanted - to secure Israel from Assad's chemical weapons in exchange for turning a blind eye to his crimes."
Zawahiri said the kidnapping of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Libi by US special forces in Tripoli last October proved the Libyan government was an American puppet. "It hurts me to tell you that your revolution has been aborted and stolen by lackeys, and you have to take it back," he told the Libyan people.
- An Egyptian security official said militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an army bus in the Sinai Peninsula yesterday, killing two soldiers and wounding 11. It came as an al-Qaeda-inspired group based in the Sinai claimed responsibility for downing an Egyptian military helicopter on Saturday. A military spokesman said the aircraft had crashed, without giving a cause.