DOHA, Nov 3: Osama bin Laden on Saturday branded UN Secretary General Kofi Annan a “criminal” and appealed to Muslims to defend “their brothers in Afghanistan” in the “war between Muslims and Christian crusaders”.

He lashed out at Annan for sanctioning injustices inflicted on Muslims in occupied Kashmir, Palestine, Bosnia, Sudan, Somalia and Chechnya, singling out his role in the East Timor crisis.

“The criminal Kofi Annan spoke publicly and put pressure on the Indonesian government, giving it a 24-hour ultimatum to (accept) the secession of East Timor or face the dispatch of troops to impose it by force,” he said.

“The huge demonstrations in Islamic countries ... demonstrate clearly the nature of this war, which is essentially a religious war — the people of the East being Muslims who sympathized with other Muslims (in Afghanistan) against those of the West who are crusaders,” he said in a videotape broadcast by Qatar’s Al-Jazeera television.

“Those trying to conceal the truth that this is a religious war are deceiving the (Islamic) nation,” said Osama.

The masses who took to the streets across the Muslim world did “not do so for Osama, (they did it) for their religion because they are fighting against the fiercest crusade against Islam since the days of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” he said.

In his second appearance on Al-Jazeera since US-led strikes on Afghanistan began last month, Osama denounced Arab and other Muslim leaders backing US President George W. Bush’s campaign, saying they had “renounced their religion”.

“The undeniable truth is that Bush raised the banner of the cross and those who rallied behind him in this campaign have renounced Islam,” he said in a reference to Muslim countries backing Washington.

Osama went on to appeal to Muslims to “defend their religion and their brothers in Afghanistan” against the “crusade” waged by the United States. —AFP

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