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Bin Laden’s deputy fields queries

From Times Wire Services

Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman Zawahiri denied Wednesday that the terrorist network had killed innocent people, but also said any such deaths were unintentional -- or necessary.

His comments came in a 90-minute audio response billed as the first installment of answers to more than 900 questions submitted online.

“We haven’t killed the innocents, not in Baghdad, nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else,” Zawahiri said, according to an English transcript that accompanied the audio posted on websites linked to Al Qaeda.

The question was: “Excuse me, Mr. Zawahri, but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency’s blessing the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?”

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Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, and its affiliates in Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria regularly detonate bombs in crowded urban areas, killing thousands.

Though Zawahiri denied killing innocent people, he also said: “If there is any innocent who was killed in the mujahedin’s operations, then it was either an unintentional error or out of necessity.”

He accused opponents of killing innocent people.

Many of the questions, compiled since December, were sharply critical of Al Qaeda and its practices, while others sought advice for joining jihad.

Zawahiri also said:

* Osama bin Laden is well and reports of illness are false.

* Attacks on United Nations offices were justified, an apparent reference to twin bombings in Algiers that killed 41 people in December and the 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 22.

* Muslims must try to topple Western-allied governments and attack Western and Israeli interests.

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