BBC News & Haaretz – 2007-09-07 23:13:28
Bin Laden Says US Should Convert
(September 7, 2007) — Beneath him a banner reads in English “A message from Sheikh Osama Bin Laden to the American people.”
The speaker makes no overt threats to the US and did not directly call for attacks, according to transcripts of the tape obtained by several media organisations in the United States.
Instead, he tells the American people that they have failed to persuade the Bush administration to stop the war in Iraq.
“You made one of your greatest mistakes, in that you neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war,” the speaker in the tape says, according to the transcript obtained by ABC News.
“You permitted Bush to complete his first term, and stranger still, chose him for a second term, which gave him a clear mandate from you… to continue to murder our people in Iraq and Afghanistan”.
The speaker tells the American public that there are two ways to end the war in Iraq: “The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you.”
The second way, he continues, is to reject America’s democratic system and convert to Islam.
“It has now become clear to you and the entire world the impotence of the democratic system and how it plays with the interest of the peoples and their blood by sacrificing soldiers and populations to achieve the interests of the major corporations”.
“I invite you to embrace Islam,” the speaker says.
The transcript also makes reference to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which indicates that the tape was recorded after Mr Sarkozy’s victory in May.
Correspondents say a new video would serve to dispel persistent rumours that the al-Qaeda leader has died.
The US Department of Homeland Security said it had no credible information of an imminent threat in the wake of the video announcement.
Deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said: “I don’t think that anything he is likely to say or do is going to change our resolve or the resolve of our international partners to confront extremism.”
But in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Friday, CIA director Michael Hayden warned that al-Qaeda was plotting new attacks on the US.
“Our analysts assess with high confidence that al-Qaeda’s central leadership is planning high impact plots against the American homeland,” he said.
“Al-Qaeda is focusing on targets that would produce mass casualties, dramatic destruction and significant economic aftershocks.”
In his October 2004 video, Osama Bin Laden threatened new attacks against the US on the eve of the presidential election.
Another tape – audio – was released in January 2006. It referred to identifiable events, including the situation in Somalia.
Bin Laden did appear in footage on a militant website in July this year but the clip was undated and correspondents said it might be old footage, which had been recycled.
Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri has appeared in a greater number of videos, including one berating the Pakistani army’s assault on radical Islamists in Islamabad’s Red Mosque in July.
The US Senate voted to double the bounty on Bin Laden to $50 million (£24.6 million) in July.
© BBC MMVII
Head of terrorist group Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, said in a new video marking the sixth anniversary of Al-Qaida’s September 11 attacks that the United States was vulnerable despite its military and economic power, but he made no specific threats.
In his first video appearance in almost three years, Al-Qaida’s leader said U.S. President George W. Bush was repeating the mistakes of the former Soviet Union by refusing to acknowledge losses in Iraq.
A U.S. intelligence official said that an analysis of the tape had confirmed that the voice on it did in fact belong to bin Laden.
The video shows bin Laden sitting at a table dressed in white and cream robes and wearing white headgear. Beneath him, a banner on the screen reads in English: “A message from Sheikh Osama bin Laden to the American people.”
Bin Laden appears tired and sallow, although his beard is much shorter and darker than in his last appearance, when it was streaked with gray.
Bush responded from Australia where was attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that “The tape is a reminder of the dangerous world in which we live and it is a reminder that we must work together to protect our people.”
“I found it interesting that on the tape, Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is a part of this war against extremists,” Bush said.
A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in Washington, “Initial technical analysis suggests that the voice on the videotape is indeed that of Osama bin Laden.” The official said he had no analysis of the Al-Qaida leader’s physical appearance on the tape.
“Despite America being the greatest economic power and possessing the most powerful and modern military arsenal, and despite it spending on this war and its army more than the entire world spends on its armies, and being the major state influencing the world’s policies … 19 young men were able … to change the direction of its compass,” bin Laden said in the tape.
“The subject of the mujahideen has become an inseparable part of the speech of your leader and the effects and signs are not hidden. Since the 11th, many of America’s policies have come under the influence of the mujahideen.”
In a sign the almost 30-minute tape was made recently, bin Laden mentions new French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Bush said Al-Qaida was seeking to establish a safe haven in Iraq to launch attacks against the United States and its allies.
“Therefore it’s important that we show resolve and determination to protect ourselves and deny Al-Qaida safe haven.”
Bin Laden was last seen in a video statement issued on the eve of the November 2004 U.S. presidential election. Since then, he has issued several audio messages, the last in July 2006 when he vowed Al-Qaida would fight the United States worldwide.
Some intelligence officials and security analysts suggest bin Laden has limited his appearances to maximize their impact, perhaps saving his next one to coincide with a dramatic attack. Others say bin Laden, aged 50 and believed to suffer from a serious kidney ailment, may be too sick or too tightly pinned down in his hiding place to smuggle out a tape.
U.S. CIA Director Michael Hayden said he had not seen the tape, but he said earlier in a New York speech that Al-Qaida had regained strength and its leadership continued to plot a “high-impact” attack on the United States. Asked after the speech if he believed bin Laden was alive, Hayden said, “I have no reason to believe he’s not.”
U.S.-led forces have been searching for bin Laden since they toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government after it refused to hand over the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in the border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, a mountainous, inaccessible region that U.S. intelligence has described as a safe haven for Al-Qaida and the Taliban.
According to a transcript issued by U.S. officials, bin Laden compares the U.S. situation in Iraq with the Soviet Union’s operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
“The mistakes of Brezhnev are being repeated by Bush, who, when asked about the date of his withdrawing of force from Iraq said in effect that the withdrawal will not be during his reign, but … that of the one who succeeds him,” bin Laden said.
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