Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden called on the Europeans to stop helping the United States in the war in Afghanistan, according to excerpts of a new audiotape broadcast Thursday on Al-Jazeera television.
Bin Laden said it was unjust for the United States to have invaded Afghanistan for sheltering him after the 9/11 attacks, saying he was the “only one responsible” for the deadly assaults on New York and Washington.
“The events of Manhattan were retaliation against the American-Israeli alliance’s aggression against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, and I am the only one responsible for it. The Afghan people and government knew nothing about it. America knows that,” the al-Qaida leader said.
The message appeared to be another attempt by bin Laden to influence public opinion in the West. In 2004, he offered Europeans a truce if they stopped attacking Muslims, then later spoke of a truce with the United States. In both cases, al-Qaida then denounced the countries for not accepting its offers.
U.S. official confirms bin Laden's voice
In Washington, a U.S. counterterrorism official said the voice on the audio tape appeared to be bin Laden's. It was not immediately clear when the new message was recorded.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed the new tape as typical of bin Laden’s tactics and expressed faith in the European allies.
“I think our NATO allies understand quite clearly what is at stake in Afghanistan as well as elsewhere around the world in fighting the war on terror,” he told reporters. “It’s going to require a sustained commitment over a period of time and we have seen that kind of commitment from our European allies.”
This has been the deadliest year in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, with more than 6,100 people killed — including more than 800 civilians — in militant attacks and military operations, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.
Bin Laden: 'The American tide is ebbing'
In the new tape, bin Laden said European nations joined the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan “because they had no other alternative, only to be a follower.”
“The American tide is ebbing, with God’s help, and they will go back to their countries,” he said, speaking of Europeans.
Bin Laden urged Europeans to pull away from the fight.
“It is better for you to stand against your leaders who are dropping in on the White House, and to work seriously to lift the injustice against the believers,” he said, accusing U.S. forces and their allies of intentionally killing women and children in Afghanistan.
Al-Jazeera aired two brief excerpts of the audiotape, titled “Message to the European Peoples,” which al-Qaida had announced Monday that it would release soon.
Bin Laden issued four public statements earlier this year — on Sept. 7, Sept. 11, Sept. 20 and Oct. 22. The Sept. 7 video was his first in three years and was issued to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Al-Qaida has dramatically stepped up its messages — a pace seen as a sign of its increasing technical sophistication and the relative security felt by its leadership. Bin Laden is believed to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.
Bin Laden’s message was the 89th this year by Al-Qaida’s media wing, Al-Sahab, an average of one every three days, double the rate in 2006, according to IntelCenter, a U.S. counterterrorism group that monitors militant messaging.