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Another dubious ‘Bin Laden tape’ comes when the US needed it the most

Timing, quality of audio make tape controversial

ONDON: The Arab-language television station, al-Jazeera, has broadcast a message allegedly from Osama bin Laden, in which he calls for Muslims to stand with the Iraqi people against the United States.

The message was contained in a poor quality audio recording in which a man's voice, identified as Bin Laden's, is heard calling for suicide attacks against Americans and resistance to any attack on Iraq, reports BBC.

The Bush administration believes the tape to almost certainly be genuine and officials say the message heralds a "burgeoning alliance of terror". Before the Al-Jazeera broadcast the tape, US Secretary of State was quick to announce in the US Senate that “Bin Laden tape is coming proving Iraq’s links with Al-Qaeda.”

The broadcast came on the same day that the head of the CIA, George Tenet, warned of an increased risk of al-Qaeda attacks in the US and on the Arabian Peninsula using a "dirty bomb" or poisons. Although no where in the tape, so-called “Bin Laden” referred to his alliance with Sadam Hussein of Iraq, the US media and government are describing it as a proof to their allegations that Saddam has links with Al-Qaeda.

But the BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, said the figure on the tape voiced support for Iraq, but that in no way did it prove a link between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi leadership.

It may be recalled here that last year there was a video tape allegedly released by Bin Laden. But, experts in many European countries declared the tape as fake. Only the US experts were insisting that the tape was genuine. Even the people who have seen Bin Laden in person refuted that the guy shown in the video was actually Bin Laden. Perhaps this setback forced the CIA and Mossad strategists to bring in an audio tape instead of a video.

'Muslim brothers'

The US was put on orange alert - the second highest - last week because of threats coming from multiple sources which have strong links to al-Qaeda.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had read a transcript of the alleged Bin Laden tape and that it confirmed links between the militant group, blamed for the 11 September attacks, and Iraq.

Mr Powell last week sought to make a connection between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda during a presentation to the United Nations Security Council.

But the BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, said the figure on the tape voiced support for Iraq, but that in no way did it prove a link between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi leadership.

In the broadcast the speaker addresses his "Muslim brothers in Iraq" and calls for Muslims to show solidarity with the Iraqi people in any confrontation with the US.

He gives practical tips on how Iraqis may resist a military attack by digging trenches and drawing fighting into the cities.

Identity Analyzed

He said that any Muslim regime which supported a US-led military action against Iraq would be an "apostate".

"All those who co-operate with the Americans against Iraq are hostile to Islam," said the voice on the tape, which was broadcast alongside a photograph of al-Qaeda's fugitive leader.

Several other statements allegedly made by al-Qaeda members, including Bin Laden, have been broadcast by al-Jazeera in the past.

In the past, the US has accused al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda propaganda.

US and Britain on Alert

The speaker on the tape repeated previous messages calling for attacks on American targets.

"We stress the importance of martyrdom attacks against the enemy. These attacks inflicted on America and Israel a disaster they have never experienced before," the message said.

On Tuesday, Mr Tenet said US intelligence officials had received information of a possible attack that was "the most specific we have seen".

Mr Tenet said the areas being targeted were America and the Arabian peninsula and that the information pointed to a possible attack as early as the end of the Hajj festival, later this week.

Mr Tenet added that the information pointed to a dirty bomb plot - in which radioactive materials or poisons could be dispersed.

The head of the FBI, Robert Mueller added his own warning, saying al-Qaeda had the ability to inflict significant casualties in the United States with little warning.

Britain has also massively stepped up security at London's Heathrow airport in response to what a spokesman for Downing Street said was a specific threat.

Tanks and troops were drafted in to guard against what police sources said was a possible rocket attack by al-Qaeda.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

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