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Timeline of al-Qaida statements

Statements by key al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their associates, most notably, al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Rifa’I Taha Musa, former head of the Egyptian Islamic Group’s military wing.
/ Source: and NBC News

Statements by key al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their associates, most notably, al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Rifa’I Taha Musa, former head of the Egyptian Islamic Group’s military wing. 

-- August 1995

Osama bin Laden writes an open letter to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia calling for a campaign of guerrilla attacks to drive U.S forces out of the kingdom. The letter is widely circulated in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

--November 1996

Gwynne Roberts conducts an interview of bin Laden for the British documentary program “Dispatches.” Bin Laden threatens to wage an Islamic holy war against the United States and its allies if Washington does not remove its troops from the Gulf region.

--Aug. 10, 1997

In a video interview with CNN's Peter Arnett, bin Laden praises the bombing of the Khobar Towers U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia. He tells Arnett that "if the American government is serious about avoiding explosions inside the U.S., then let it stop provoking the feelings of 1,250 million Muslims."

--Feb. 28, 1998

In a fatwa entitled, "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders World Islamic Front Statement," bin Laden announces the formation of a coalition of Islamic groups, including Egyptian Islamic Jihad led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, and calls for the killing of Americans worldwide.  In the fatwa, bin Laden states: "To kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque [Jerusalem] and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim."  Al-Zawahiri becomes No. 2 in al-Qaida and a number of Egyptians prominent in EIJ become al-Qaida leaders.

--May 28, 1998 [Contemporaneous]

In a video interview with ABC's John Miller, bin Laden praises Ramzi Yousef and Wali Khan Amin Shah, convicted in the "Day of Hate" airliner bombing plot --  which sought to blow up 11 U.S. commercial aircraft in one day -- saying "America will see many youths who will follow Ramzi Yousef." Bin Laden also praises the bombers of the Khobar Towers. "We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States ... Allah willing." Bin Laden’s military commander, Mohammed Atef, also is seen on the tape.

--Aug. 6, 1998 [Contemporaneous]

Al-Zawahiri sends a statement to a London-based Arabic newspaper saying, "We are interested in briefly telling the Americans that their messages have been received and that the response, which we hope they will read carefully, is being readied."

--Dec. 22, 1998 [Contemporaneous]

In an interview with Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani journalist who reports for The News of Pakistan, as well as Time Magazine, bin Laden discusses the embassy bombing attacks as well as other issues.  He does not confirm a role in any of the recent bombings, but in response to Yusufzai, says: “My answer is that I understand the motives of the brothers who act against the enemies of the nation. When it becomes apparent that it would be impossible to repel these Americans without assaulting them, even if this involved the killing of Muslims, this is permissible under Islam.”  He also calls it the duty of Muslims to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

--Jan. 15, 1999 [Contemporaneous]

In an interview with al-Jazeera, bin Laden praises those who carried out the August 1998 Africa embassy bombings, saying the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, was hit "because it was the major U.S. intelligence center in East Africa."

--June 10, 1999

In a broadcast of new elements from the January interview, al-Jazeera shows bin Laden telling their interviewer that American civilians are prime targets because they support killing Muslims through their tax payments.  The interview represents his broadest rationale for killing Americans.  “Jihad now knows that with few weapons and people they destroyed the biggest war machine in Afghanistan.  In our opinion, a superpower means nothing.  The U.S. is much weaker than the Soviet Union was.  We've learned from our Somali brothers how weak and cowardly American soldiers are. They lost only 80 people and they fled. “I look at the great men who attacked Khobar and Riyadh with great respect, those who made the explosions in Riyadh, Khobar, East Africa and young Palestinians who are giving the Israelis a lesson.

“A man is considered a fighter whether he carries a gun or pays taxes to help kill us.  So when they say bin Laden kills civilians, who are they killing in Palestine? Children.  Our aim is that every American man is an enemy whether he kills us or pays taxes to kill us.  The U.S. has a double standard...75 percent of  the American people support Clinton hitting Saddam Hussein.  It is a nation where the president’s rating goes up when he kills civilians.”

--Sept. 20, 2000 [Shot between March and May]

Video tape shown on al-Jazeera of bin Laden and three Egyptian clerics calling for the release of Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind sheik imprisoned in the United States. It's believed to have been filmed sometime between March and May 2000. Also seen on the tape are Ayman al-Zawahiri, Rifai Ahmad Taha, a leading figure in the armed Egyptian group, Jamaa Islamiya, and Assad Allah, son of Sheikh Abdel Rahman.  Shown on Al-Jazeera, al-Zawahiri warns at the end of the videotape, "Enough of words. It is time to take action against the iniquitous and faithless force which has spread troops through Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia."

--Oct. 18, 2000

Six days after the bombing of the USS Cole, Rifa'i Ahmad Taha, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group, calls for launching attacks on U.S. interests in the region. "Our officers and soldiers, and the sons of our people in Egypt, should learn the lesson of the U.S. destroyer in Aden; they have the Suez Canal through which dozens of U.S. and Jewish ships pass. “They [Jews and Americans] must realize that we have no other option but to besiege their embassies and military and civilian centers in our countries, which are numerous...let the embassies and centers be burned down, ships and destroyers destroyed and individuals killed.”

--Jan. 10, 2001 [Contemporaneous]

Video tape of bin Laden celebrating the marriage of his teenage son, Mohammed, to the daughter of Mohammed Atef, his military commander. The tape was shot the previous day in Afghanistan. Also seen on the tape are Atef and Mohammed bin Laden.

--June 20, 2001 [Shot at various times and locations]

A 98-minute al-Qaida training video tape believed to have been shot at various times -- but after the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 and before the U.S. presidential inauguration in January 2001 -- is distributed by Associated Press Television News and Reuters. On it, bin Laden praises the bombers of the USS Cole, "The courage of our youth was witnessed in Aden, where they destroyed their destroyer and instilled fear. ... Their ships stand so arrogantly in our ports."

--Oct. 4, 2001 [Shot in June]

The al-Qaida graduation ceremony tape. Al-Jazeera reports the video tape was made after the Sept. 11 attacks, but U.S. intelligence says it was shot in June 2001 to celebrate the merger of al-Qaida and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Also seen on the tape is the EIJ leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.  The tape appears to have been broadcast to assure his followers that he is still alive, a move that is repeated often over the next two years.

--Oct. 7, 2001 [Shot in late September/early October]

A threatening video tape released at the start of the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and shown on al-Jazeera. It is believed to have been shot in late September or early October. Also on tape are bin Laden spokesman Abu Ghaith, al-Zawahiri, and Mohammed Atef, bin Laden's military commander. Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti, was unknown to U.S. intelligence prior to this tape.

--Oct. 21, 2001 [Never aired on al-Jazeera, aired on CNN on Feb 5. 2002]

In a controversial interview with al-Jazeera reporter Tayseer Alouni -- later indicted as a messenger for bin Laden -- the bin Laden makes threats against the United States and says the United States will be easier to defeat in Afghanistan than the Soviets. "We experienced the Americans through our brothers who went into combat against them in Somalia, for example. We found they had no power worthy of mention. There was a huge aura over America -- the United States -- that terrified people even before they entered combat. Our brothers who were here in Afghanistan tested them, and together with some of the mujahedeen in Somalia, God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing." The tape never airs on Al Jazeera, which apparently thought it was too incendiary.  CNN obtains it in February and airs it internationally.

--Nov. 3, 2001 [Shot late October/early November]

Bin Laden, dressed in camouflage and armed with an AK-47, says in a video tape aired by al-Jazeera that Afghanistan is in a religious war. "The people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with this matter. The campaign, however, continues to unjustly annihilate the villagers and civilians, children, women and innocent people." There's no indication of when the tape was shot, but almost certainly it was within weeks, if not days, prior to its release, since it refers to the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

--Nov. 7, 2001 [Contemporaneous]

Several of bin Laden's sons, the oldest being Hamza, then age 8, play in the wreckage of a downed U.S. helicopter, believed to have been shot in October. The tape is shown on al-Jazeera. Video later shows up as part of a video tape the U.S. government releases in December 2001.

--Nov. 7, 2001 [Published Nov. 10, 2001]

In his first print interview after the Sept. 11 attacks, bin Laden speaks with Hamid Mir of Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper.  In the interview, bin Laden says, "We have chemical and nuclear weapons as a deterrent and if America used them against us we reserve the right to use them." Al-Zawahiri is seated with him during the interview.  Bin Laden does not take responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, but defends the hijackers' actions: "The mission is to spread the word of God, not to indulge massacring people. We ourselves are the target of killings, destruction and atrocities. We are only defending ourselves. This is defensive jihad. We want to defend our people and our land. That is why I say that if we don't get security, the Americans, too would not get security."

--Dec. 12, 2001 [Shot around Nov. 9]

The CIA releases the "Dinner Party Tape" in which bin Laden describes planning for the Sept. 11 attacks, noting among other things the final order was given the "Thursday before," meaning Sept. 6. The video tape is the first in which bin Laden takes responsibility for the attacks. It was shot in November, possibly Nov. 9, 2001, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is released by the U.S. government to all broadcasters. Also on tape is Khaled al-Harbi, a Saudi cleric.

--Dec. 27, 2001 [Shot late November]

The "Gaunt Tape," so named because bin Laden is haggard and doesn't move his left arm, is believed to have been recorded in late November 2001, probably around Nov. 19. On the video tape, bin Laden refers to the U.S. bombing of a mosque in Khost "several days" earlier. (The United States bombed a mosque in Khost on Nov. 16). Al-Jazeera airs the tape.

--Feb. 21, 2002

Pakistani police confirm that a video showing the beheading of Daniel Pearl has been circulating on the Internet, confirming Pearl’s death for the first time.  The video shows Pearl discussing his Jewish roots, his visits to Israel, followed by graphic video of his beheading, apparently at the hands of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.  Mohammed is also believed to have been responsible for the video’s production and distribution.

--April 17-18, 2002 [Shot in October 2001]

The "Riverside tape," believed shot in October 2001, is shown on Arabic language broadcasters MBC and al-Jazeera in slightly different versions. On this tape, bin Laden praises the effects the Sept. 11 attacks had on the U.S. economy. Also on tape is Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's chief lieutenant, while several suicide bombers appear on the MBC tape.

--Oct. 9, 2002 [Contemporaneous]

Al-Zawahiri tape threatens attacks on the United States, its economy and allies.  "I promise you that the Islamic youth are preparing for you what will fill your hearts with horror," he says.  It is unclear if the tape was recorded prior to the attacks on the Marines in Kuwait a day earlier.

--Nov. 12, 2002 [Contemporaneous]

Bin Laden, in an audiotape, calls President Bush the "pharaoh of this age" and lists recent attacks in a statement carried on al-Jazeera.  Specifically, he notes: "The incidents that have taken place since the raids on New York and Washington up until now -- like the killing of Germans in Tunisia and the French in Karachi, the bombing of the giant French tanker in Yemen, the killing of Marines in Failaka [in Kuwait] and the British and Australians in the Bali explosions, the recent operation in Moscow and some sporadic operations here and there -- are only reactions and reciprocal actions."  It is the first bin Laden message that can be dated in nearly a year.

--Feb. 11, 2003 [Contemporaneous]

Bin Laden criticizes U.S. plans for war on Iraq, citing Baghdad's historical role as a capital of Islam. In the audio statement, carried on al-Jazeera, bin Laden states: "We are following up with great interest and extreme concern the crusaders' preparations for war to occupy a former capital of Islam, loot Muslims' wealth, and install an agent government, which would be a satellite for its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv, just like all the other treasonous and agent Arab governments."

--Feb. 16, 2003 [Contemporaneous]

Entitled, bin Laden's “Sermon for the Feast of the Sacrifice,” the audio statement broadcast on al-Jazeera criticizes Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for planning their war on Iraq. Bin Laden states the two leaders' plans do not end with Iraq. "The preparations under way at present for an attack upon Iraq are but one link in a chain of attacks -- [currently] in preparation -- on the countries of the region, including Syria, Iran, Egypt and Sudan. However, the preparations for the division of the Land of the Two Holy Places [i.e., Saudi Arabia] constitutes the main part of their plan. This, we know, is a long-standing strategic aim [which has existed] ever since [Saudi Arabia] transferred its dependence from Great Britain to the United States six decades ago."

--April 8, 2003 [Contemporaneous]

On the eve of the U.S. victory in Iraq, bin Laden urges suicide attacks and calls on Muslims to rise up against Arab governments that support the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.  In the tape, bin Laden urges the faithful to attack governments in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Unlike previous recording allegedly by bin Laden, this audio tape has a single theme -- suicide attacks.

--May 23, 2003 [Contemporaneous]

Al-Zawahiri, in an audiotape aired on various radio and television outlets in the Middle East, tells Muslims to "burn the ground under their feet, as they should not enjoy your protection...Expel those criminals out of your country.” He also condemns Saudi and other Arab governments and concludes, "The coming days will bring to you news that will heal your hearts"

--July 2003 [Contemporaneous]

Several Islamist websites publish a "new Bin Laden speech," which attacks Saudi clerics and other Muslims for failing to join his jihad against the West. The audiotape is 90 minutes long and most of it is devoted to attacking Saudi clerics who support the ruling royal family, but also other "tyrants" in the region.  It cannot be dated much beyond the fall of the Taliban regime in November 2001.

--Sept. 10, 2003 [Most likely shot 2001]

A combined audio and videotape showing bin Laden walking down a mountain path with Ayman al Zawahiri is broadcast on al-Jazeera.  U.S. officials note that the audio from bin Laden does not make any references to current events, while al-Zawahiri does; indicating the bin Laden audio was old.  U.S. intelligence also believes the video was dated.

--Sept. 29, 2003 [Contemporaneous]

In an audio tape played on Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television, Ayman Zawahiri called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf a "traitor" for helping US-led forces topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, for considering sending troops to Iraq and for considering recognizing Israel. "Muslims in Pakistan must unite and cooperate to topple this traitor and install a sincere leadership that would defend Islam and Muslims," said Zawahiri.

--Oct. 18, 2003  [Contemporaneous]

Al Jazeera broadcasts two audiotapes said to be made by bin Laden, vowing more suicide attacks inside and outside the United States and demanding that the United States withdraw from Iraq.  "We, God willing, will continue to fight you and will continue martyrdom operations inside and outside the United States until you abandon your oppression and foolish acts," said bin Laden, referring to suicide attacks.

--Oct. 18, 2003  [Contemporaneous]

Al-Qaida releases a new videotape message related to the May 2003 attack in Riyadh.  On the 45-minute tape, made available on several websites friendly to the group, is an audio recording of the attack on U.S. and British housing in the Saudi capital.  Also on the tape: What appears to be new images of Bin Laden...and 4 terrorists killed in the bombing...two speaking English for the first time on tape. One of them, Hazem Al-Kashmiri, claims to be the son of a former major general in Saudi intelligence. He says, "We promise that we will not let you live safely and will not see anything else from us: just bombs, fires, destroying homes, cutting your heads. A second terrorist, Mohammed Al Moqeet, adds, "Stop killing Muslims or we will kill you as you are killing Muslims.”

--Jan. 4, 2004   [Contemporaneous]

Al Jazeera broadcasts an audiotape in which bin Laden blasts the "occupation of the crusaders" in Iraq, which he claims is part of a conspiracy to occupy the entire Gulf region. It also makes reference to the arrest of Saddam Hussein the previous month in Iraq.

--April 15, 2004  [Contemporaneous]

Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya broadcast an alleged audiotape from bin Laden in which he offers a "truce" to European nations as long as they withdraw troops from Islamic countries and stop attacking Muslims. The tape blasts the United States and Israel, vowing revenge for Israel's assassination of Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Bin Laden makes specific reference to the 9/11 attacks and the March 11, 2004 bombings in Madrid, saying what happened "was your goods delivered back to you.”

--May 7, 2004  [Contemporaneous]
In a recorded message attributed to Bin Laden, 10kg (22lb) of gold is offered to anyone killing the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, or the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan. A smaller amount is offered for the slayings of American and British soldiers.  The 20-minute message appears on two Islamic websites and has yet to be authenticated

--May 31, 2004  [Contemporaneous]
Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin, who identifies himself as al-Qaida’s chief in the Saudi region, claims responsibility for a deadly attack in the kingdom’s oil hub on a tape posted on the Internet. The unauthenticated tape was posted on a site known for militant Muslim comment along with a written statement about the attack that was characterized by contempt for non-Muslims.

--Sept. 9, 2004  [Contemporaneous]
In a videotape, Ayman al-Zawahiri says that fighters in Iraq have "turned America's plan upside down" and says that the the mujahadeen in Iraq and Afghanistan will defeat the United States.

--Oct. 1, 2004  [Contemporaneous]
In an audio message, Ayman al-Zawahiri urges Muslims to mount worldwide resistance to the American "crusaders" and its allies. His lists of allies include Britain, Poland, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

--Oct. 17, 2004  [Contemporaneous]

“Announcement of the good tidings” Abu Mousab al Zarqawi announces that he has sworn ‘Bayat” to Bin Laden.  In an audio statement, Zarqawi says that in spite of  “a catastrophic dispute” that had slowed a merger of his and Bin Laden’s group, that problem has been solved and his group will henceforth be named “Al Qaeda in Iraq”.

--Oct. 29, 2004  [Contemporaneous]
In a message seemingly timed to the runup to the U.S. presidential election, a healthy looking bin Laden warns Americans that “your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands."

--Nov. 29, 2004  [shot late October]
In a videotape that seemed to have been recorded before the U.S. election, Ayman al-Zawahiri  warns that America must change its policies toward the Muslim world, no matter who is elected president.

--Dec. 16, 2004  [Contemporaneous]
In an audio tape released via an Islamic website, Osama bin Laden praises an attack earlier this month on a U.S. Consulate in Saudi Arabia and criticizes the Saudi regime as weak and controlled by the United States.

--Feb. 21, 2005  [Contemporaneous]

In a new videotape broadcast on al Jazeera, al-Zawahiri predicts that the U.S.'s "new crusade is doomed to fail," and that it will lead to "tens of thousands of fallen victims and the destruction of your economy."  Al-Zawahiri also argues, "Real security is based on mutual cooperation with the Islamic nation on the basis of mutual respect and the stopping of aggression."

--June 18, 2005  [Contemporaneous]

Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader disparages the American concept of reform in the Middle East in a videotape broadcast on al Jazeera and says armed jihad is the only way to bring change in the Arab world.  He also states Muslim states being “run out of US embassies”.  The tape is the best lit of all his tapes and the reflections of four studio lights can be seen in his eyeglasses, indicating an increasing sophistication.