DUBAI (Reuters) - An al Qaeda video marking the anniversary of the September 11 attacks has appeared on the Internet more than a week late due to technical problems.
The delay of the much-touted 87-minute video, caused in part by the main Islamist websites crashing, has thwarted al Qaeda’s yearly celebration of its attacks on U.S. cities in 2001.
Parts of the video -- a compilation of documentary footage and messages by al Qaeda leaders -- were aired on September 8 by Al Jazeera television, which did not say how it obtained it.
But the full version hit websites on Friday, eight days after the anniversary.
On it, senior al Qaeda commander Mustafa Abu al-Yazid vowed that Western forces in Afghanistan would face “more large-scale attacks ... where they least expect it” and called for militants in Pakistan to step up their fight.
“In order for jihad in Afghanistan to continue and be victorious, you must stand with your Mujahideen brothers in Afghanistan and ... strike the interests of Crusader (Western) allies in Pakistan,” said Abu al-Yazid, a commander of al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
A suicide car bomber attacked the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Saturday, killing at least 40 people and starting a fire that swept through the hotel.
Al Qaeda has marked the anniversary of September 11 in the past with releases including a tape on September 7 last year in which its leader, Osama bin Laden, appeared on video for the first time in nearly three years, addressing the American people.
It was unclear why the websites normally favored by al Qaeda had gone down. By Saturday, the two most popular were still out of action.
Some suspected they had been targeted by hackers. India’s Hindustan Times pointed the finger at intelligence websites that track militant sites on the Internet, which responded in tongue-in-cheek fashion.
Rusty Shackleford of My Pet Jawa (www.mypetjawa.mu.nu) denied his web group was behind any cyber-attack on the websites. “But if I was responsible I’d deny it,” he said.
Aaron Weisburd of www.internet-haganah.com wrote: “The actual reasons for this are not known to me (and I would say that even if I actually knew what was going on).”
When less popular Islamist websites managed to post links to the video -- which includes a “last will” recording by one of the September 11 hijackers -- downloaders noted that the password given to them was wrong.
This further delayed the release and unnerved al Qaeda sympathizers, one of whom wrote: “May God bless you my brothers, but the password is wrong.”
The video also showed al Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri accusing predominantly Shi‘ite Muslim Iran of taking part in a Western “crusade” against Islam.
The closure of the Sunni websites coincided with a widespread cyber attack which shut down some 300 Shi‘ite sites, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said. Fars blamed this on hardline Wahhabi Sunni hackers in the United Arab Emirates.
Hackers calling themselves Group XP took responsibility for defacing the website (www.sistani.org) of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shi‘ite authority. The group said the Shi‘ite sites were attacked for “offending Sunnis”.
Visitors could push a button to see U.S. humorist Bill Maher making fun of Sistani’s religious edicts on a television show segment posted on youtube.com.
Editing by Elizabeth Piper