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Archive for Friday, September 8, 2006

Al-Jazeera plays footage of Osama bin Laden meeting with Sept. 11 plotters

September 8, 2006

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— An Arab television station broadcast previously unseen footage Thursday of a smiling Osama bin Laden meeting with the top planners of the Sept. 11 attacks in an Afghan mountain camp and calling on followers to pray for the hijackers as they carry out the suicide mission.

The sections shown on Al-Jazeera TV were part of a video that al-Qaida announced it would release later on the Internet to mark the fifth anniversary of the airborne attacks on the United States.

The video includes the last testament of two of the hijackers, Wail al-Shehri and Hamza al-Ghamdi. It shows bin Laden strolling in the camp, greeting followers, who Al-Jazeera said included some of the hijackers. But their faces are not clear in the video, and it was not immediately known which are purportedly shown.

In one scene, bin Laden addresses the camera, calling on followers to support the hijackers.

"I ask you to pray for them and to ask God to make them successful, aim their shots well, set their feet strong and strengthen their hearts," bin Laden said. The comments were apparently filmed before the attacks but never before released.

The footage was the fourth in a series of long videos that al-Qaida has put out to memorialize the suicide hijackings against the Pentagon and World Trade Center, said Ben Venzke, head of IntelCenter, a private U.S. company that monitors militant message traffic and provides counterterrorism intelligence services for the American government.

The previous ones were issued in April and September 2002 and September 2003, each showing footage from the planning of the suicide hijackings and hijackers' last testimonies, Venzke told The Associated Press.

The latest full video probably lasts from 40 minutes to two hours, based on the past ones, he said. Al-Jazeera did not say how it obtained the video, which bore the logo of As-Sahab, al-Qaida's media branch.

"They produce long videos like these not just for 9/11, but for any significant events they feel warrant their attention," Venzke said.

One aim is to boost recruitment, but such videos have several purposes - "to speak to their supporters, to raise morale within their own group, to facilitate fundraising and to serve as a psychological attack," he said.

In the footage shown by Al-Jazeera, bin Laden is shown sitting outside in what appears to be a mountain camp with his former lieutenant Mohammed Atef and Ramzi Binalshibh, another suspected planner of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Atef, also known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001. Binalshibh was captured four years ago in Pakistan and is currently in U.S. custody, and this week President Bush announced plans to put him on military trial.

Bin Laden, wearing a dark robe and white head gear, strolls through the camp, greeting dozens of followers, some masked, some barefaced, many carrying automatic weapons.

There was no confirmation of the tape's authenticity by the White House. "One by one we will bring the 9/11 plotters to justice for their vicious acts, including Ramzi Binalshibh, who is now in DOD custody," said Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.

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