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Al Qaeda chief urges kidnappings of Westerners for prisoner swaps

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has appeared in an audio interview calling on fighters to take Western hostages and exchange them for jailed jihadists, the monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group said on Sunday.

In recording posted online, Al-Zawahiri called on the global militant network to kidnap Westerners “until they liberate the last Muslim male prisoner and last Muslim female prisoner in the prisons of the Crusaders, apostates, and enemies of Islam,” according to SITE.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the recording. Zawahiri is believed to be seeking refuge in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that is the Taliban’s base.

Earlier, in his last message the Al Qaeda leader had warned the United States of the “gravest consequences” if Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or any other Muslim prisoner is executed.

Tsarnaev, named in that online video message from Zawahri, was sentenced last year to death by lethal injection for the 2013 bomb attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260.

“If the US administration kills our brother the hero Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or any Muslim, it…will bring America’s nationals the gravest consequences,” Zawahri had said.

Zawahri, who became al Qaeda’s leader after US forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, urged Muslims to take captive as many Westerners as possible, especially those whose countries had joined the “Crusaders’ Campaign led by the United States”.

The veteran Egyptian-born Islamist, shown wearing white robes and sitting in front of green velvet drapes, said the Western captives could then be exchanged for Muslim prisoners.

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