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Al-Qaeda deputy says bin Laden is healthy

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command on Wednesday said that his leader, Osama Bin Laden, is in good health, despite reports to the contrary.

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command on Wednesday said that his leader, Osama bin Laden, is in good health, despite reports to the contrary.

"Sheik Osama bin Laden is healthy and well, by the grace of Allah," said Ayman al-Zawahri in a 90-minute audio recording posted online.

The recording was a response to questions solicited from the public by the extremist group's media arm, al-Sahab, back in December. The tape could not be independently verified. The message bore the logo of al-Qaeda's media arm, al-Sahab, and appeared on websites linked to the organization.

Al-Zawahri's response released on Wednesday was accompanied by a 46-page English transcript. It was billed as the first instalment of answers to hundreds of questions received, with most focusing on the future of al-Qaeda efforts.

He reassured many who seemed worried about the direction of the organization, saying global jihad was on track and expected to expand.

"I expect the Jihad influence to spread after the Americans' exit from Iraq, and to move towards Jerusalem," he said to those asking when attacks on Israel would take place.

Many of the questions Zawahri chose focused on restarting the jihad in Egypt, which he helped begin and was crushed by the government in the 1990s.

Al-Zawahri also rejected criticism of attacks by the terror network, saying they don't kill innocent people.

"We haven't killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else," al-Zawahri said.

The answer was in response to the question: "Excuse me, Mr. Zawahri, but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?"

Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington in 2001, while its affiliates in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria regularly set off bombs in crowded urban areas that have taken thousands of lives.

Al-Zawahri also denounced the United Nations, calling the international agency "an enemy of Islam and Muslims" that has legalized the crusader presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With files from the Associated Press

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