New bin Laden audio tape aired
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 1:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 1:34 p.m.
Al-Jazeera on Thursday aired an audiotape from Osama bin Laden, who says al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offers a truce on "fair" but undefined conditions.
The tape's release came days after a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan that was targeting bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and reportedly killed four leading al-Qaida figures, including possibly al-Zawahri's son-in-law. There was no mention of the attack on the segments that were broadcast.
It was the first tape from the al-Qaida leader in more than a year _ the longest period without a message since the Sept. 11 2001 suicide hijackings in the United States.
The CIA has authenticated the voice on the tape as that of bin Laden, an agency official said. The al-Qaida leader is believed to be hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Al-Jazeera said the tape was recorded in the Islamic month that corresponds with December.
Bin Laden refers to an alleged comment by President Bush about bombing the Qatar headquarters of Al-Jazeera, which was first reported in the British press on Nov. 22.
He also refers indirectly to the July 7 bombings in London that killed 56 people and to poll numbers that showed a fall in Bush's popularity, as occurred in late 2005.
U.S. counterterror officials said Thursday they have seen no specific or credible intelligence to indicate an upcoming al-Qaida attack on the country.
The United States will not let up in the war on terror despite the threats on the tape, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. "We do not negotiate with terrorists," McClellan said. "We put them out of business."
While warning against downplaying the taped threat, officials at intelligence and law enforcement agencies said there has been no recent increase in "chatter" that can indicate that such an attack is imminent.
In the tape, bin Laden said he was directing his message to the American people after polls showed that "an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq but (Bush) opposed that desire."
He said insurgents were winning the conflict in Iraq and warned that security measures in the West and the United States could not prevent attacks there.
"The proof of that is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of European nations," he said "The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with God's permission."
The al-Qaida leader did not spell out conditions for a truce in the excerpts aired by Al-Jazeera.
"We do not mind offering you a long-term truce with fair conditions that we adhere to," he said. "We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war.
"There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America," he said.
In an Arabic transcription of the entire tape on the Al-Jazeera Web site _ but not aired _ bin Laden makes an oblique reference to how to prevent new attacks on the United States, but does not specify if these are conditions for a truce.
Bin Laden tells Americans that "if you are sincere in your desire for peace and security, and if Bush refuses to do anything but continue lies and oppression," then he recommends Americans read a book entitled "The Rogue State," apparently a reference to a book of that title by political analyst William Blum. The book has been published in Arabic.
"In its introduction, it states: 'If I were president, I would stop the attacks on the United States: First I would give an apology to all the widows and orphans and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that American interference in the nations of the world has ended,'" he said.
The last audiotape from bin Laden was broadcast in December 2004 by Al-Jazeera. In that recording, he endorsed Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of Iraqi elections.
He issued numerous tapes in 2003 and 2004, calling for Muslims to attack U.S. interests and threatening attacks against the United States.
In an April 15, 2004, audiotape, he vowed revenge against the United States for Israel's assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin _ and at the same time offered a truce to European countries.
Bin Laden appeared in a video released October 2004, just ahead of U.S. presidential elections, saying the United States can avoid another Sept. 11 attack if it stops threatening the security of Muslims.
Since December 2004, bin Laden's deputy in al-Qaida, al-Zawahri, has issued a number of video and audiotapes, including one claiming responsibility for the London attacks, which he said came after Europe rejected the terms of a truce al-Qaida had previously offered them.
Al-Jazeera's editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sheik would not comment on when or where the latest tape was received. He said the full tape was 10 minutes long. The station aired excerpts with what it "considered newsworthy," he said, but would not say what was on the remainder.
Jeremy Bennie, a terrorism analyst for Jane's Defense Weekly, said bin Laden appeared to be "playing the peacemaker, the more statesmanlike character" with his offer of a truce.
"They want to promote the image that they can launch attacks if and when it suits them. That's the message of a powerful organization, not a weakened one. They want us to believe they are in control," he said.
The mention of rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan may be a recognition of divisions among the ranks of Islamic militants over the insurgency in Iraq by bin Laden's ally, al-Zarqawi, who has come under criticism by some radicals for attacks on Iraqi civilians.
"The initial significance of this is that he's still alive," former White House antiterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke said.
Beyond that, he told The Associated Press, "the only new element in his statement is that they are planning an attack soon on the United States.
"Would he say that and risk being proved wrong, if he can't pull it off in a month or so?" Clarke asked.
Of the truce offer, which Clarke said bin Laden has made before, "I think it's designed to make him look more reasonable in Arab and Muslim eyes. He's a very sophisticated reader of world opinion and American opinion, and he obviously knows he can't affect American thinking. He's too reviled."
Intelligence authorities were examining why bin Laden would be speaking out after more than a year of letting his al-Zawahri serve as al-Qaida's public face in statements and other communications.
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