DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's second-in-command, in an Internet message, praised as "steadfast heroes" three militants executed for the 2002 Bali bombings, vowing that the executions would prompt Islamists to step up their anti-Western fight.
"These steadfast heroes ... knew the price and paid it with satisfaction," said Ayman al-Zawahri in the audio recording posted on Islamist websites on Monday. "They withstood a long journey of torture, imprisonment and coercion and they joyfully received the verdict.
"I remind the crusaders that the killing of our brothers will only make us more determined ... to harm you and to expel you from the lands of Islam," the Egyptian militant leader said.
Previously released video footage accompanying Zawahri's message showed the three militants speaking in their prison cells, and threatening Australians that they would face attacks if they traveled to Bali, as well as praising al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Indonesia last month executed the three men from the group Jemaah Islamia for the bombings which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
In an Internet video released on November 28, Zawahri said the U.S. financial crisis was caused by Washington's military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and taxpayers were paying the price.
That video appeared to have been made earlier than an audio recording issued on November 19, in which Zawahri criticized president-elect Barack Obama for vowing to back Israel during his campaign, and warned he would fail if he follows the policies of President George W. Bush.
Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Charles Dick