CAIRO -- As Egyptians voted in a landmark presidential election pitting Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi against Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, Al Qaeda’s leader urged Islamists to unite and revoke Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Although Al Qaeda's influence has diminished over the years, Ayman Zawahiri sent out the message during a pivotal time as Egyptian voters faced the choice between an Islamist and a secular holdover from the former regime. The election has left Egyptians deeply divided.
"Islamic movements in Egypt must unite and confront the secular American schemes, which only want evil for Egypt," Zawahiri said in the recording, which was published through the weekend in news outlets across the Middle East.
In his 10th address to Egyptians since he became Al Qaeda's leader after Osama bin Laden was killed last year in an American raid in Pakistan, Zawahiri accused Egypt's ruling military council, which assumed power after Mubarak's ouster last year, of taking orders from Washington.
Zawahiri, who is Egyptian, also called on fellow citizens to prevent Jerusalem from becoming a Jewish city and to liberate Palestinians.
"You must apply Islamic laws in the great state of Egypt to exert pressure on Israel and end the treaty," Zawahiri said in a voice recording posted on a militant website.
Zawahiri also praised militants in Sinai for bombing the gas pipeline to Israel 14 times over the last year since Mubarak left power.
Egypt canceled its gas deal with Israel in April, alleging that the company delivering the gas to Israel failed to pay for it. As a result, Ampal-American Israel Corp. said in May that it was pursuing a legal arbitration case against Egypt.
Egypt’s signed the 20-year gas deal with Israel in 2005.
-- Reem Abdellatif
Photo: A video grab provided by the SITE Intelligence Group on Feb. 12, 2012, shows Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri at an undisclosed location making an announcement in a video-relayed audio message posted on militant forums. Credit: AFP/Getty Images