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Pakistan Checks Suspected al-Qaida Tape - 2004-03-26

Pakistan says it is checking the authenticity of a taped message calling for the overthrow of the government of President Pervez Musharraf - a recording supposedly made by a senior member of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The Arab satellite television network Al-Jazeera aired the message Thursday, saying it was recorded by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the top deputy to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The taped message denounces President Musharraf as a traitor working for the United States, and urges Pakistanis to overthrow him.

The tape was aired days after Pakistani military officials suggested that Ayman al-Zawahiri might be among a group of al-Qaida fighters surrounded by government troops in a mountainous region near the Afghan border.

Intelligence officials have yet to verify the voice on the tape, but other analysts have said it is similar to previous al-Zawahiri recordings.

U.S. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday the United States soon will deploy 2,000 Marines to Afghanistan to join the hunt for al-Qaida and Taleban fighters near the border with Pakistan.

Across the border in Pakistan's Waziristan tribal region, fighters who have been locked in battle with thousands of Pakistani government troops are refusing to hand over 14 hostages until the army vacates the region.

A deadline passed early Thursday, but tribal elders who have been given more time to try to negotiate the hostages' release. The hostages include 12 soldiers and two local officials.