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Clues sought in Atta video

AP | October 3 2006

Related: Surprise Surprise, It's Another Al Qaeda Blockbuster Release

LONDON: Video footage of 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta reading a "martyrdom" will about 20 months before the attacks on the US may never have been intended to be released in thatform.
And an expert on Islamic extremism predicted the footage was so out of character for al-Qa'ida it could have been taken by a security agency.

Egyptian-born Atta flew an American Airlines plane into the north tower of the World Trade Centre in New York and Lebanese hijacker Ziad Jarrah piloted United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

In the silent video, obtained by London's The Sunday Times newspaper and posted on its website, they look quite different than they do in photographs made famous after the attacks in New York and Washington.

Both seem younger, are bearded, and the infamously bleak gaze of Atta, the ringleader, is replaced by a somewhat softer expression.

It is the only known footage of Atta and Jarrah together.

Al-Qa'ida head Osama bin Laden also appears on the hour-long tape, speaking to a large group of people at what the paper said was an al-Qa'ida training camp in Afghanistan on January 8, 2000.

Ben Venzke, head of the Virginia-based IntelCentre, which monitors terrorism communications, said the video was probably raw footage that al-Qa'ida had intended to edit into a package similar to one released last month showing the last testament of two of the September 11 hijackers, Wail al-Shehri and Hamza al-Ghamdi.

Bin Laden said a few years ago that he was saving Atta's last testament to release for a special occasion, Mr Venzke said.

"It is highly unlikely that al-Qa'ida wanted the material to be released in this manner, and it is not consistent with any previous release," he said.

Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on militant groups, said he found it strange that the cameraman focused not only on bin Laden but also on his audience. He said al-Qa'ida videos of bin Laden usually focused on him alone.

"Was this a video by al-Qa'ida or by a security agency?" Dr Rashwan asked. "I have never seen such a video."

Paul Beaver, an independent defence and security expert, said although the video had no sound, it could contain valuable information.

"It helps build up a profile, so you can ID people in the future," he said.

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