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U.S. to Carefully Study New Video

Reaction: Officials say every attempt will be made to extract data from Bin Laden tape.

April 16, 2002|JOSH MEYER and ERIC LICHTBLAU | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — U.S. authorities said Monday that they will scrutinize a video apparently made by one of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks to see what it can tell them about the terrorist plot and who else might have been involved in it.

The satellite television network Al Jazeera released two video segments Monday, including one in which a bearded young man identified as hijacker Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi reads a prepared statement vowing to help send a "bloodied message" to the world.

"It is time to kill the Americans on their own soil among their sons and next to their soldiers and intelligence agencies," the man says on a portion of the tape aired by the Qatar-based network, which broadcasts throughout the Arab world. A translated version was rebroadcast globally by CNN. "We killed them outside their country, praise be to God, and today we kill them on their own soil."

Al Jazeera said the taped statement was part of an hourlong documentary. The network said the statement was taped several months before the Sept. 11 attacks but did not elaborate on how it knew that.

The video shows a man who bears a striking resemblance to FBI-distributed photos of Haznawi. Behind him is an image, apparently electronically inserted, of the World Trade Center in flames after the attacks.

Al Jazeera said that it received the tape several days ago and that it was recorded in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

The FBI immediately said it would do its own translation and assign forensic experts to pore over the tape, as well as the other video segment, which shows Osama bin Laden and top aide Ayman Zawahiri.

The FBI has said that Haznawi, a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian, was aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Authorities believe that the plane was headed for the White House, the Capitol or another Washington landmark but that a struggle involving passengers somehow forced it down before it reached its intended target.

If the man is indeed Haznawi and if the tape was made months before Sept. 11, it could be an indication that co-conspirators in Afghanistan and elsewhere were aware of the terrorist plot long before the attacks were launched.

"Obviously, we're going to be interested in seeing the full tape, and we'll analyze it carefully and try to glean any insights we can," one U.S. official said. "There are lots of questions about these attacks--we'll see if the entire tape sheds any light."

One question, the official said, is why Haznawi was selected to videotape what amounts to a last will and testament and whether any of the other 18 hijackers did the same.

Investigators were taking a cautious approach to evaluating the significance of the tape.

"We have to see if it's real," a law enforcement official said.

Another U.S. official said the CIA was taking steps to authenticate the tape and review it for possible leads.

Counterterrorism officials noted that such "last will" tapes have surfaced from other Al Qaeda members who are wanted by the FBI, but not from any of the hijackers.

Haznawi was not one of the higher-profile hijackers and is not believed to have been one of the pilots. But he did appear to have ties to alleged plot leader Mohamed Atta and another of the pilots, Ziad Samir Jarrah.

Jarrah is believed to have accompanied Haznawi to a South Florida hospital emergency room last summer for treatment of a blackened lesion on his leg. The doctor who saw him has since speculated that the lesion was cutaneous anthrax, a speculation that has been rejected by federal authorities, who say they still have no suspect in the anthrax mailings that killed five people.

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Times staff writer Bob Drogin contributed to this report.

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