The Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera has aired an audiotape purportedly recorded by Osama bin Laden's top deputy in the al-Qaida terror network, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The voice on the tape calls Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a traitor and urges all Muslims in Pakistan to overthrow his government, which it accuses of working for Americans.
The speaker, whose voice is described as sounding like that of al-Zawahiri on previous tapes, called on Pakistani soldiers to disobey the president's orders.
The tape was broadcast as Pakistani troops are battling hundreds of suspected al-Qaida fighters and their local allies in a semi-autonomous tribal region near the Afghan border. It is Pakistan's biggest military operation ever against suspected al-Qaida targets on its soil.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani army's latest deadline for the surrender of al-Qaida fighters and their release of 14 hostages passed early today (Thursday). Tribal elders who have been trying to negotiate the release of the hostages for three days have reportedly been given more time. The hostages include 12 soldiers and two local officials.
Rebel tribesmen protecting the besieged fighters had been threatened with serious consequences if they failed to surrender the militants and release the hostages.