CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Osama bin Laden praised slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the “lion of holy war” in a new videotape posted on the Web on Friday.

The 19-minute message shows an old still photo of bin Laden in a split-screen next to images of al-Zarqawi taken from a previous video.

A voice resembling bin Laden’s narrates a tribute to the Jordanian-born militant, who was killed in a June 7, airstrike northeast of Baghdad.

It was the fourth message put out this year by al-Qaida leader bin Laden. All have featured his voice in audiotapes.

New video images of him have not appeared since October 2004.

The authenticity of the video could not be immediately confirmed.

It bore the logo of As-Sahab, the al-Qaida production branch that releases all its messages, and was posted on an Islamic Web forum where militants often post messages. Typically, the CIA tries to determine whether the speaker is who the tape claims and the National Counterterrorism Center analyzes the contents.

In the tape, bin Laden’s voice sounded breathy and fatigued at times. “Even if we lost one of our greatest knights and and princes, we are happy that we have found a symbol for our great Islamic nations, one that the mujahedeen will remember and praise in poetry and in stories secretly and aloud,” bin Laden said.

A similar video tribute was released a week ago by bin Laden’s deputy, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, who did appear personally in the video, shown speaking to the camera.

The videos appear to be part of an attempt by al-Qaida’s central leadership to tout their connection to al-Zarqawi, who emerged as a hero among Islamic extremists with his dramatic attacks against Shiites and Westerners in Iraq.

Al-Zarqaw swore loyalty to bin Laden but is believed to have had sometimes rocky ties with al-Qaida’s core leadership, based in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

In July 2005, bin Laden’s deputy reportedly wrote a letter to al-Zarqawi criticizing his attacks on Iraqi Shiite mosques and civilians, saying they hurt the mujahedeen’s image. The al-Qaida deputy also asked al-Zarqawi for money, according to the U.S. military, which said it intercepted the message.

Al-Zarqawi apparently brushed off the criticism as he continued to attack Shiites, a strategy intended to spark a Sunni-Shiite civil war.

Any tension between al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida’s command appeared to have faded by early 2006, because al-Zawahri has now issued three videotapes this year in which he effusively praises al-Zarqawi.

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