DUBAI Al Qaeda's second-in-command said in an Internet video the U.S. financial crisis was caused by Washington's military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and taxpayers were paying the price.
"This crisis is one of ... the series of American economic hemorrhages after the strikes of September 11... And these ... will continue as long as the foolish American policy of wading in Muslim blood continues," Ayman al-Zawahri said on the video, posted on Islamist websites on Friday.
"The ones shouldering the burden are taxpayers, whose money was spent to rescue senior capitalists and to protect the fraudulent interest-based system from collapse," Zawahri said.
Asked by an off-camera interviewer whether Washington would be able to resolve the crisis, Zawahri said: "They might be able to lighten their losses if they were to stop the insane hemorrhaging of funds which they are spending on wars against Muslims."
Zawahri said U.S. military action against militant tribal forces in Pakistan, who are allied with al Qaeda, would fail despite more troops being sent by President George W. Bush to neighboring Afghanistan.
"I challenge you (Bush), if you are really a man, to send the entire American army to Pakistan and the tribal regions for it to end up in hell," Zawahri said on the video, which carried English subtitles.
Calls for talks to end the war in Afghanistan showed the failure of U.S.-led forces in defeating the Taliban, he said.
"All this is proof of the failure of their crusade," Zawahri said on the 80-minute video, referring to efforts to start a dialogue between the Afghan government and some moderate figures from among Taliban insurgents.
With the Taliban insurgency spreading seven years after the hardline Islamists were forced from power, the possibility of talks with more moderate Taliban leaders is increasingly being considered, both in Afghanistan and among its allies.
Zawahri called for a general strike in Egypt to pressure the government to open the Gaza border to defeat an Israeli siege of the area ruled by militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
"What is the problem if students, employees and workers were to refuse to study and work until the siege is lifted on Gaza?" the Egyptian militant leader said. "Are we unable to carry out such a peaceful strike?"
The video appeared to have been made earlier than an audio recording issued on November 19, in which Zawahri criticized U.S. president-elect Barack Obama for vowing to back Israel during his campaign, and warned he would fail if he follows the policies of Bush.
(Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)