Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri called for attacks on the United States in order to drain the country economically, in an audio message released late Thursday and posted on websites used by jihadist groups.
In an audio speech released online two days after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 strikes, Ayman al-Zawahiri said that America is not a "mythic power" and that the mujahedeen – Islamic holy warriors – can defeat it with attacks "on its own soil".
"We should bleed America economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on its security, for the weak point of America is its economy, which has already begun to stagger due to the military and security expenditure," al-Zawahiri, the successor to Osama bin Laden, said.
The message\’s authenticity could not be independently confirmed.
Keeping America in such a state of tension and anticipation only required a few disparate attacks "here and there", he said.
"As we defeated it in the gang warfare in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, so we should follow it with …war on its own land. These disparate strikes can be done by one brother or a few of the brothers."
At the same time, Muslims should seize any opportunity to stage small attacks or a "big strike" against the United States, even if this took years of patience, he said.
However, affiliates in other parts of the world – notably al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen – are said by government officials to remain a threat.
Zawahiri, who has historically tended to focus more on ideology and strategy, also spends a significant amount of the message talking about recent events in Egypt.
He says that the US was behind the "coup" against the Muslim Brotherhood.
He also criticises Mohammed Morsi, the deposed president who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, saying he was not governing according to Islamic law and had committed to abide by security agreements with the US and Israel.
Zawahiri, whose background before joining al-Qaeda was in Egypt\’s Islamist movements, also emphasises his opposition to the Brotherhood\’s willingness to work through democratic politics.
He criticises other Islamist movements in places like Tunisia for coming to "an understanding with America".
Syria remains a key focus for international attention – including for al-Qaeda. Zawahiri warns Islamist opposition groups there not to come to any agreement with "secularists" who are also fighting the Assad regime.
"Let what happened in Egypt be a lesson to them," he says, before arguing that the jihadists groups need to unite in the region.
The September 11, 2011 attacks, in which hijacked airliners were flown into New York\’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington and a Pennsylvania field, triggered a global fight against al-Qaeda members and their affiliates.
Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.
In his audio speech, al-Zawahiri – who is believed to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region – said Muslims should refuse to buy goods from America and its allies, as such spending only helped to fund US military action in Muslim lands.