Bin Laden’s Voice Heard Extolling Attacks on Audiotape, Sources Say

Niner Online

WASHINGTON – An Arabic satellite television station broadcast an audiotape Tuesday that was purported to be Osama bin Laden praising recent terrorist attacks and warning America’s allies against further cooperation in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

A senior American intelligence official, who asked to remain anonymous, asserted that the voice belonged to bin Laden and that the founder of the al-Qaida terrorist network was alive, at least as of last month.

Another U.S. official said American intelligence analysts were working to verify the authenticity of the tape played by al Jazeera, a TV station in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

“We are evaluating it,” said the official, who also asked not to be named. “We want to be as sure as we can be, but, that said, it does sound like him.”

Bin Laden’s whereabouts have been a subject of intense debate since he was last monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies exhorting his fighters over a walkie-talkie at his former mountain stronghold of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan last December.

Many intelligence experts and American military officials have come to think that bin Laden and hundreds of his followers survived U.S. airstrikes and an assault by U.S.-backed Afghan fighters, crossed into Pakistan and found sanctuaries in other parts of the world. Their dispersal may be behind the recent spate of terrorist attacks from Indonesia to North Africa.

The dispersal of bin Laden’s followers has complicated the Bush administration’s efforts to eradicate al-Qaida, but President Bush and his senior aides say the hunt can continue without detracting from preparations for a possible U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

On Tuesday’s tape, the speaker referred to last month’s bombings in the Indonesian resort of Bali, which killed nearly 200 people, the killing of a U.S. Marine in Kuwait and the bombing of a French-owned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. The speaker also mentioned a killing in Amman, Jordan, where an American diplomat was gunned down recently outside his home.

The speaker referred to the drama Oct. 26 in Moscow in which Russian security forces using a knockout gas stormed a theater in which Chechen rebels were holding hundreds of hostages.

The voice said all the incidents “were carried out by the zealous sons of Islam in defense of their religion,” according to an unofficial U.S. government translation.

It said the attacks were in response to “what Bush, the pharaoh of this age, was doing in terms of bombing houses that shelter old people, women and children with U.S.-made aircraft in Palestine.”

The voice admonished Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Australia for cooperating in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and warned that “it is time we get even. You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb.”

“Do your governments not know that the White House gangsters are the biggest butchers of this age?” the speaker said.

“What do your governments want from their alliance with America in attacking us in Afghanistan?”

Al Jazeera, which commands a huge audience across the Arabic-speaking world, did not disclose when or how it received the tape.