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L.A., Melbourne Targeted in Purported Al Qaeda Tape

The man delivering the terrorist message is a Southern California native, ABC News says.

September 12, 2005|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A suspected new Al Qaeda videotape that singles out two cities -- including Los Angeles -- as likely targets for terrorist attacks surfaced over the weekend, a dose of chilling propaganda apparently timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Sept. 11.

The videotape was reported Sunday by ABC News, which said a copy had been delivered to its office in Pakistan on Saturday. The network also said that it had verified that the speaker was a Southern California native -- Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who is wanted by the FBI and is suspected of having delivered a similar communique for Al Qaeda last year.

The latest 11-minute diatribe targets Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia; attacks the foreign policies of the United States and Britain; and warns that an attack could be imminent unless the United States stops its military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, ABC News said.

"Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing. And this time, don't count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion," the man on the videotape, speaking in English, warns. "We are Muslims. We love peace, but peace on our terms, peace as laid down by Islam, not the so-called peace of occupiers and dictators."

Los Angeles officials said they were not surprised by the timing of the videotape or the fact that their city was singled out.

"Bombastic pronouncements are expected on the eve of terrorist incidents like Sept. 11, but we cannot let such pronouncements alter our lifestyle," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton said Sunday in a joint statement.

"We have long known that Los Angeles is a target of terrorism."

They cited the foiled plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of millennium celebrations and the indictments last month of four men accused of planning terrorist attacks on area synagogues and military sites.

Villaraigosa and Bratton said they had discussed the tape with officials at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, "and in spite of the pronouncements, there is no known specific, credible threat to Los Angeles."

In Washington, a counterterrorism official said only that the government was "aware of the tape." And the CIA had no immediate statement Sunday on whether the video was authentic or whether Gadahn was the speaker. The man on the tape wears a turban, and a black scarf covers everything but his eyes.

Gadahn is one of a crop of homegrown terrorism suspects who are increasingly worrisome to U.S. officials, and his emergence as a mouthpiece for Al Qaeda is intensifying that concern.

The FBI first announced that it was seeking information on Gadahn in May 2004, and said at the time that he should be considered armed and dangerous. Officials believe that he attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and worked as a translator and aide for several Al Qaeda leaders, including senior lieutenant Abu Zubeida in Pakistan. Zubeida is now in U.S. custody.

Gadahn, 27, previously appeared in an Al Qaeda videotape that was aired shortly before last year's presidential election. In it, he declared that the Sept. 11 attacks were only the "opening salvo of the global war on America." Identifying himself as "Assam the American," he warned of a wave of violence against the U.S., saying American "streets will run with blood." That tape was also obtained by ABC News.

Like its predecessor, the latest video is infused with vitriol, the network reported.

"Don't believe the lies of the liars at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and 10 Downing St.," the man on the tape says. "They have dispatched your sons and daughters to die lonely deaths in the burning deserts of Iraq and the unforgiving mountains of Afghanistan....

"We love peace, but when the enemy violates that peace or prevents us from achieving it, then we love nothing better than the heat of battle, the echo of explosion and the slitting of the throats of the infidels."

ABC News said the tape included an attempt to dispel rumors that Osama bin Laden was dead.

The man on the video concludes by invoking the name of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"Every one of us is Mohamed Atta," he says.

Gadahn, who has used several aliases and at one time was known as Adam Pearlman, was raised on a goat farm in rural Riverside County and lived in Garden Grove in the 1990s. FBI officials have said that he converted to Islam as a youth and left the United States around 1998. Several of his relatives reside in Southern California.

Nancy Pearlman, Gadahn's aunt, said in a brief phone conversation Sunday that she did not know whether the man who made the threat was her nephew.

"I've watched the videotape," Pearlman said, "and I can't tell." If Gadahn is the speaker, she said, "it's not the Adam Gadahn that I knew."

Pearlman, a Los Angeles Community College District trustee, declined further comment.

Times staff writers Scott Glover in Los Angeles and Bob Drogin in Washington contributed to this report.

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