Al-Jazeera TV airs apparently recent tape of bin Laden
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — A Qatar-based television station aired excerpts of a videotape Wednesday of Osama bin Laden, adding a new twist to rumors about the terrorist leader’s whereabouts and whether he even is still alive. His words indicated he could have been speaking in the first half of December.
Dressed in green military fatigues, a pale and gaunt looking bin Laden referred to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, saying he was speaking “three months after the blessed attack against the international infidels and its leaders, the United States, and two months after the beginning of the vicious aggression against Islam.”
The Associated Press translated the excerpt broadcast on Al-Jazeera in Arabic.
It was the latest tape of bin Laden broadcast since a U.S. bombing campaign began Oct. 7 against the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies. With the fall of the Taliban regime, U.S. bombers focused on the Tora Bora region in eastern Afghanistan in early December where bin Laden was believed hiding. The bombing tapered off around Dec. 19. Since then, U.S. ground troops and their allies have been scouring the caves hunting for him.
Several people, including Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, have speculated he may have been killed, while others believe he may have slipped away, possibly crossing the border into Pakistan.
The chief editor of al-Jazeera, Ibrahim Hilal, told The Associated Press that his station received the tape “a couple days ago” by an air courier service from Pakistan. The sender was anonymous, he said.
The last tape of bin Laden the station aired was on Nov. 3. Bin Laden also appeared in a tape that the Pentagon says was found in Afghanistan and dated Nov. 9. It shows bin Laden laughing over the Sept. 11 attack.
Hilal said the new tape runs 33 minutes and will be shown on Al-Jazeera on Thursday. Only a few minutes was shown on the Wednesday night news.
In the tape, Bin Laden referred to the bombing of a mosque in Khost, Afghanistan, saying it happened “several days” before. U.S. Central Command said an errant U.S. bomb damaged a mosque in the town of Khost on Nov. 16.
Speaking in front of a brown backdrop, a submachine gun propped up beside him, bin Laden spoke of errant U.S. bombs. “All that you hear about mistaken strikes is a lie and a sheer lie,” he said.
As he spoke, he gestured with his right hand, keeping his left hand down at his side and perfectly still. Bin Laden is left-handed, according to the FBI Web site. It wasn’t clear if he avoided using that hand because of a problem or injury. Bin Laden often has been shown gesturing with his right hand.
“Several days ago, they bombed — as they claimed — positions of a Taliban base in Khost and sent a missile to a mosque and said it was a mistake. And after investigation it was clear that some religious scholars were praying.”
He claimed 150 people were killed in the strike, but said Sheik Jalal din Haggani had survived. Haggani is considered a Taliban leader and bin Laden ally.
In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the tape as “nothing more than the same kind of terrorist propaganda we’ve heard before.” He said he did not know whether government analysts had determined when the tape was made, or whether bin Laden might be injured on it.
In the tape, Bin Laden also defended his group’s actions as a just sort of terrorism.
“Our terrorism is against America. Our terrorism is a blessed terrorism to prevent the unjust person from committing injustice and to stop American support for Israel, which kills our sons.”
He condemned the United States as a nation that speaks about humanity and freedom but that commits crimes against millions of Afghans.
“It is quite clear now that the West, generally speaking, and in particular America, has an indescribable hatred of Islam,” bin Laden said. “The people who have lived the last months under the continual American air strikes, they know that very well. Many villages were wiped out for no crime and many millions were displaced in this cold weather.”
CNN aired a two-sentence portion of the tape. Both Fox News Channel and MSNBC showed still pictures but did not show exact quotes.
In October, the Bush administration urged television executives to use caution in showing tapes of bin Laden for fear he would be sending “hidden messages” to followers.
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