Al-Qaeda in Iraq's leader, in an audiotape released Thursday, called for nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war and urged his followers to kidnap Westerners so they could be traded for a blind Egyptian sheikh who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison.
The fugitive terror chief said experts in the fields of "chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences, especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts" should join his group's jihad against the West. "We are in dire need of you," said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri. "The field of jihad can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases (in Iraq) are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them."
The 20-minute audio was posted to a Web site that frequently airs al-Qaeda messages.
Thursday's message focused attention on Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a 68-year-old Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1995 of conspiracy for his advisory role in a plot to assassinate Egypt's president and blow up five New York City landmarks including the United Nations.
"I appeal to every holy warrior in the land of Iraq to exert all efforts in this holy month so that God may enable us to capture some of the Western dogs to swap them with our sheik and get him out of his dark prison," said al-Masri, who is also Egyptian.
He also said more than 4,000 foreign fighters have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.