Video: U.S.: Tape proves bin Laden is alive

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 1/5/2004 9:21:30 AM ET 2004-01-05T14:21:30

CIA analysts have concluded that the voice on an audiotape sent to an Arab television network is "likely" that of Osama bin Laden, sources told NBC News on Monday. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told an interviewer that it is safe to assume that the fugitive al-Qaida leader is alive.

While the CIA was not yet ready to definitively pronounce the tape the work of bin Laden, officials said that preliminary technical analysis indicated it was his voice.

“We’ll continue to play with it” before making a final pronouncement, said one official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity.

Others using less sophisticated means also identified the voice as bin Laden’s.

“It is bin Laden’s superb and special Arabic language that is very hard to emulate,” Ibrahim Hilal, Al-Jazeera’s editor-in-chief, told the Associated Press. “It is undoubtedly his voice, his style, and the typical examples from history he uses.”

And Straw, the British foreign minister, said Monday in London that while he had no confirmation that the voice on the tape was that of the Saudi-born terrorist,  but that it was a safe assumption.

Straw says bin Laden apparently alive
“There is no question that the al-Qaida organization and its networks are still around. And so far as we know, Osama bin Laden is still alive,” Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

“I’ve had no confirmation but let’s for the purpose of this interview assume that it was him,” Straw said. Asked whether he thought that assumption was safe, Straw replied: “Yes.”

If authenticated, the tape would appear to indicate that bin Laden was alive at least as late as last month, because it includes references to the capture of topped Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The last time a purported communique from bin Laden was aired by al-Jazeera, in October  2003, it contained references to the government of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who was appointed in April and resigned Sept. 6. CIA officials said the voice on that tape was bin Laden's.

In the tape aired Sunday by al-Jazeera, the voice believed to be bin Laden's urged Muslims to continue fighting a holy war in Iraq and the Middle East rather than cooperate with peace efforts.

The speaker, who referred to recent events — including the December capture of Saddam — called on Muslims to “continue the jihad to check the conspiracies that are hatched against the Islamic nation.” He said the U.S.-led war against Iraq was the beginning of the “occupation” of Gulf states for their oil.

Reference to ‘road map’ peace plan
“My message is to incite you against the conspiracies, especially those uncovered by the occupation of the crusaders in Baghdad under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, and also the situation in [Jerusalem] under the deceptions of the road map and the Geneva initiative,” the speaker said.

A Mideast peace plan dubbed the Geneva Accord was launched Dec. 1 by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. The phrase “road map” refers to a U.S.-backed plan for a Palestinian state by 2005.

“The CIA and appropriate intelligence authorities are reviewing the tape to check for its authenticity,” Allen Abney, a White House spokesman, said Sunday.

Al-Jazeera played the tape while showing a still photo of bin Laden against a dark blue background.

Hilal, Al-Jazeera’s editor, told the AP that the network received the message Sunday. However, he declined to reveal how it was delivered.

The original message was 47 minutes long but the network broadcast only 14, Hilal said.

In those excerpts, the speaker urged Muslims to “liberate the Islamic world from the military occupation of the Crusaders.”

The speaker criticized leaders of Muslim nations for refusing to pressure the United States on the Palestinian issue and for not supporting the Palestinian resistance.

He also criticized Gulf countries for receiving members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

“The deterioration of the situation of Arabs and Muslims is in ignoring Islam as a basic program for rule,” the speaker said while calling for establishing a council to replace the Arab rulers and unify Arab positions.

Comments on 'big powers'
He also called Middle East issues part of a religious and economic war, saying the “big powers” were trying to control the region for its oil.

“The occupation of Iraq is the beginning of the full occupation of the other Gulf states. ... The Gulf is the key for control of the world in the point of view of the big powers because of the presence of the biggest deposits of oil."

Al-Jazeera last broadcast an audiotape purportedly from bin Laden in October. CIA analysts examining that tape concluded it probably was authentic.

Rival pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya broadcast a tape last month with a voice claiming to be that of bin Laden. But Al-Jazeera and a U.S. official said it was the same videotape that aired on Al-Jazeera in September.

NBC's Tammy Kupperman, MSNBC's Mike Brunker and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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