CIA analysts have concluded that a voice heard putting bounties of gold on the heads of top U.S. and U.N. officials in Iraq likely belongs to fugitive al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, agency officials told NBC News on Friday.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was not possible to determine when the 20-minute recording that appeared Thursday on two Web sites known for militant Islamic messages was made.
One agency official said that the audiotape contains a lot of jihadist rhetoric that has been heard before, but added that the offering of rewards is new and the threat was being taken seriously by U.S. officials.
In the recording, the voice offers 10,000 grams of gold to any assassin who kills L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, senior U.S. military officials in Iraq, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan or his envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Payment promised ‘when conditions permit’
“You know that America promised big rewards for those who kill mujahedeen,” or holy warriors, a transcript of the statement read. “We in al-Qaida organization will guarantee, God willing, 10,000 grams of gold to whoever kills the occupier Bremer or the American chief commander or his deputy in Iraq.”
With gold selling Thursday on London exchanges for $387.60 an ounce, 10,000 grams — about 22 pounds — of gold was valued at $135,660.
“For security reasons, the rewards will be given as soon as conditions permit, God willing,” the transcript read. “As for those who die while killing an occupying soldier, the great prize will be for us and for him when God grants him martyrdom, and the smaller prize [the gold] will be for his family.”
The statement appeared the Ansar Islam Forum and the Islamic Research Center Web sites. Both are clearinghouses for statements by al-Qaida and other Islamic militant groups.
“The United Nations is nothing but a Zionists’ tool, even if it worked under the cover of providing humanitarian aid,” the statement said. “... Whoever kills Kofi Annan or the head of his commission in Iraq or a representative like Lakhdar Brahimi, he will be awarded the same prize of 10,000 grams of gold.”
Lesser rewards offered for killing civilians
The statement promised a lesser prize — 1,000 grams of gold — to anyone killing a citizen of countries it called “the masters of the veto like Americans and Britons” — a reference to nations with veto power on the U.N. Security Council.
And it offered 500 grams of gold to anyone killing citizens of countries it called “slaves of the Security Council who are in Iraq, like Japan and Italy.”
The transcript also denounced U.S. plans to hand sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, calling them a trick to end the resistance that has killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers. He urged Iraqis to fight a holy war against their U.S.-appointed Governing Council.
“The so-called handing sovereignty over to Iraqis is an overt trick, to anesthetize the people and abort the militant resistance, and [such a trick] will not deceive the true mujahedeen of the sons of Iraq,” the statement said.
“There is no sovereignty for Iraq as long as a crusader soldier remains in its land, and no sovereignty for Iraq as long as it is not ruled by Islam.”
The statement was titled: “A Word from the emir of the Islamic armies, Osama, to the nation and especially to brotherly Muslims in Iraq.” It used language similar to previous bin Laden statements, characterized by extensive use of Quranic verse.
NBC’s Robert Windrem in New York contributed to this report.