Beirut, Lebanon On the eve of the U.S. presidential elections in 2004, Osama bin Laden finally explained why he attacked the World Trade Center.
And his reason surprised even experts on al-Qaida: He was motivated by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
In a videotape broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network on Oct. 29, 2004, bin Laden said he got the idea for destroying the Twin Towers as a young man watching the devastation wrought on Lebanon during the U.S.-backed invasion.
"When I saw those destroyed towers in Lebanon," bin Laden said, "it sparked in my mind that the oppressors should be punished in the same way and that we should destroy towers in America - so they can taste what we tasted and so they stop killing our women and children."
Bin Laden's message has received little attention in recent weeks as war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah. But it is a reminder of how the new Israeli offensive against Lebanon could motivate Islamic militants to once again attack U.S. targets. There is tremendous anger in the Muslim world for the seemingly unconditional backing that the Bush administration is providing Israel. And experts on Islamic militancy fear that a whole new generation might be radicalized by the events in Lebanon.
"This could produce a thousand new bin Ladens," said Diaa Rashwan, a leading expert on militants at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "The level of anger and frustration in the Arab world is extremely dangerous. It could easily turn toward the United States, which is blindly supporting Israel."
Rashwan noted that Arab satellite channels such as Al-Jazeera are providing round-the-clock coverage of developments in Lebanon. "People watch these scenes and they blame not only Israel, but also America, which provides Israel with money and weapons," Rashwan said.
Lebanese leaders say they warned Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials that the war is inspiring radicals, but so far those cautions have gone unheeded.
"This war is encouraging radicalism all over the region," said Sami Haddad, Lebanese minister of economy and trade. "I don't think that Western democracies will benefit from this war. ... It's not going to further American goals of peace, stability and moderation in the Middle East."
In a videotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera on Thursday, bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims worldwide to rise up against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza. Behind him was an image of the burning World Trade Center.