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The World

Bin Laden Resurfaces on TV

Video: Arab network airs segment featuring Al Qaeda leader, another with a Sept. 11 hijacker.

April 16, 2002|MICHAEL SLACKMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CAIRO — Osama bin Laden and his allies surfaced in video and print messages Monday, declaring the Sept. 11 attacks on America a "great victory" and predicting triumph over "our American and Jewish enemies."

Once again, a calm, turbaned Bin Laden came to life in a video delivered to the satellite network Al Jazeera. As Bin Laden quietly stroked his beard, his closest aide, Ayman Zawahiri, gave what the Arab-owned station called the strongest evidence to date that Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network was responsible for the attacks.

"The great victory was achieved because of God's help and not because of our efficiency or power," Zawahiri said while seated on the ground beside Bin Laden.

A separate segment on the same tape showed a man identified by the network as Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi, one of the hijackers on board United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.

But if America's most wanted men thought they would be able to rebuild support by tapping into the seething anger at the United States and Israel sparked by the Israeli offensive in the West Bank, they seem to have miscalculated.

Instead, there was frustration that Bin Laden distracted attention from the Palestinian cause or appeared to give justification for Israel's offensive. For more than two weeks, Israel has battled its way through much of the West Bank in an operation it says is aimed at destroying a terrorist infrastructure.

"I am concerned about the timing of the broadcast of the tape at a time when the [Arab] nation is worked up against Zionists," said Montasser Zayat, a lawyer who once represented Zawahiri.

Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based satellite network, broadcast segments of the video that it said it received several days ago.

But that was only half the day's news: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who like Bin Laden has so far escaped capture, showed up in the pages of the London-based Al Hayat, a widely circulated Arabic-language newspaper.

The man who once ruled Afghanistan and gave Bin Laden and his legions sanctuary issued a statement to the newspaper's Cairo office. Although there was no way to independently verify the statement, veteran Al Hayat reporter Mohammed Salah said he was confident it came from Omar.

"The war against Islam and the Muslims is a flagrant crusader war. . . . The Jews and the Americans are one army on one mission in their war against us, and are cooperating openly to implement it," Al Hayat quoted the statement as saying.

"Our American and Jewish enemies will lose at the end of the battle. We are convinced that God will not ignore his faithful worshipers, and victory will come at his will," the statement continued.

Salah, who frequently writes about Islamic extremists, said he too was troubled by the timing of the statement and video. He said he believes that Bin Laden, Zawahiri and Omar are alive and that they somehow coordinated the media blitz.

"I am really upset with the timing," he said. "I believe this is bad for the Palestinians. Such a tape comes at a time when [Secretary of State Colin L.] Powell is in the region pressuring leaders and religious leaders to condemn terrorism, and this just gives [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon the opportunity to continue his terrorism."

The U.S. has accused Bin Laden of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed about 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The attacks precipitated the U.S.-led war on terrorism, including the campaign against Afghanistan that routed the Taliban and smashed Al Qaeda infrastructure.

Since Sept. 11, videotaped messages by Bin Laden have been funneled to Al Jazeera. News officials at the station said that, just as with all past tapes, the most recent video was delivered with no way to trace who sent it or where it came from. It was not clear when the video of Bin Laden and Zawahiri was shot.

Al Jazeera editor Ibrahim Hilal said that the tape is about an hour long and that the network would run additional segments Thursday. He said it had no intention of airing the entire video because parts were unsuitable for viewing.

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