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Archive for Sunday, June 23, 2002

Bin Laden alive, promises new attacks and TV address, says al-Qaida spokesman

June 23, 2002

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— Osama bin Laden is alive and well and will soon make an appearance, a man introduced as the spokesman for his al-Qaida terror network says in an interview appearing as an audio file on two Islamic Websites.

In the apparently recent interview, the man identified as Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the Kuwaiti-born spokesman for bin Laden, also claimed that al-Qaida was responsible for an April fire at a Jewish synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, in which 19 people died, 14 of them German tourists.

"I want to assure Muslims that Sheik Osama bin Laden ... is in good and prosperous health and all what is being rumored about his illness and injury in Tora Bora has no truth," Abu Ghaith said.

He said bin Laden will soon make a televised appearance.

The Bush administration has said it does not know whether bin Laden is alive. The authenticity of the interview could not be verified.

Parts of the 24-minute, Arabic-language audio file, which was monitored by The Associated Press on Sunday, also aired on the Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera late Saturday. Links to the audio file appeared on two Websites believed connected with al-Qaida.

Al-Jazeera editor Ibrahim Hilal said Sunday that his station aired a tape made from a download from one of the sites. Hilal said he believed the voice was al-Qaida's spokesman based on comparisons to previous videotapes the station has of him.

Abu Ghaith's interviewer did not identify himself or where the interview was conducted. Abu Ghaith thanked Al-Sahab Institution for Media Production the end of the interview. Al-Sahab was also credited with a text interview that appeared on one of the Websites last week in which a man also identified as Abu Ghaith made remarks similar to those in the audio file and with the farewell video of Ahmed Ibrahim A. Alhaznawi, one the Sept. 11 hijackers, that Al-Jazeera aired in April.

It was not clear when the interview was conducted. It referred to recent U.S. government warnings about imminent al-Qaida threats.

"I say 'Yes' to what American officials are saying ... that we are going to carry out attacks on America," Abu Ghaith said. "Yes, we will carry out attacks ... Neither (U.S. Vice President) Dick Cheney, the defense secretary nor the American president can determine the place, time, the way and the method by which we will carry out these operations."

Abu Ghaith said the war on terror has failed to achieve its aims and that al-Qaida has not been destroyed, but is working with more energy.

He said "98 percent of the leadership of al-Qaida are safe and are running their affairs perfectly" and that the group can still "threaten America ... The few coming days and months will prove to the whole world, Allah willing, the truth of what we are saying."

In the audio file, Abu Ghaith claimed al-Qaida was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 strike against the destroyer USS Cole in Yemeni port of Aden and the Tunisian synagogue attack.

The Tunisian attack was "an operation that was carried out by the al-Qaida organization (by a man) ... who could not see his brothers in Palestine being killed, slaughtered, their blood spilled and honor violated and he looks around him and sees Jews in the city of Djerba wandering around and enjoying and practicing their rituals at will," he said.

Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who had protected bin Laden, is still alive and Ayman Al-Zawahri, bin Laden's No. 2 man in al-Qaida, was unhurt by allied bombing in the mountainous Afghanistan region of Tora Bora, said Abu Ghaith.

He claimed America was hiding the fact that a large number of U.S. troops had been killed in fighting in Afghanistan.

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