CAIRO — Al-Qaida's leader said Egypt's majority Muslims should not fight their Christian compatriots, and instead focus their efforts on opposing the military-backed authorities who ousted the Islamist president last summer.
It was a rare call by Ayman al-Zawahri in defense of Christians, who largely supported the popularly backed coup against Mohammed Morsi and were subsequently targeted by a wave of violence.
In an audio message posted on militant websites, al-Zawahri said it was not in the interest of Muslims to be engaged with the Christians because "we have to be busy confronting the Americanized coup of (Gen. Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi and establish an Islamic government instead."
El-Sissi is Egypt's defense minister who overthrew Morsi after millions of Egyptians protested to demand he step down. The head of the Coptic church supported the coup along with other groups.
"We must not seek war with the Christians and thus give the West an excuse to blame Muslims, as has happened before," al-Zawahri said.
He railed against el-Sissi with particularly strong language, describing him as the same as the military strongmen who have led Egypt over the past 60 years.
"He is a mercenary, an Americanized puppet, an impostor, treacherous and sinful with a history of bootlicking," al-Zawahri said.
He also lashed out at Morsi, saying he had cooperated with secular Egyptians and surrendered to the Americans by acknowledging agreements with them and Israel. He said this was the reason for Morsi's downfall.
Al-Zawahri urged the people of the Sinai Peninsula to support Palestinians in the neighboring Gaza Strip and help break "the siege imposed by el-Sissi."
Regarding Syria, he said: "America got what it wanted — to secure Israel from Assad's chemical weapons in exchange for turning a blind eye to his crimes."
Al-Zawahri said the kidnapping of al-Qaida suspect Abu Anas al-Libi by U.S. special forces in Tripoli last October proved the Libyan government was an American puppet.
"It hurts me to tell you that your revolution has been aborted and stolen by lackeys, and you have to take it back," he told the Libyan people.