Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Al-Qaeda deputy appears in video threatening US

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

Osama bin Laden's top deputy appeared in a new videotape broadcast on an Arab television network on Thursday, taunting the US for becoming "mired in unsuccessful campaigns" in Iraq and Afghanistan while vowing that al-Qaeda would attack the US again.

In the tape, excerpts of which were shown on al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahiri said that al-Qaeda plans to follow up with more suicide attacks.

The timing of the tape seemed intentionally to come just two days before the third anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11. It is the latest in a long series of audio or videotapes issued by the Qaeda leadership, but unlike some others did not include an appearance by bin Laden.

"Bush, reinforce your security measures," the message said in Arabic. "The Islamic nation which sent you the New York and Washington brigades has taken the firm decision to send you successive brigades to sow death and aspire to paradise."

CIA officials said that they are evaluating the videotape to determine its authenticity. They noted that a reference on the videotape to the crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur suggests that the tape was made recently.

So, too, does its depictions of the military situations in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where attacks on American forces have continued, although the characterization of these situations by al-Zawahiri was imprecise.

US intelligence officials played down the tape's significance, saying that it is not necessarily an indication of a pending Qaeda attack. The officials noted that audiotapes from al-Qaeda have surfaced on each of the anniversaries of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The officials said that it would have been a more ominous sign if al-Qaeda had been silent on this anniversary.

"If something had not aired, that actually would have raised more questions," an official said. "So I wouldn't overanalyze this."

The tape immediately became fodder for the presidential campaign in which US President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, have been trading bitter charges over who would be best to fight the global war on terrorism.

On Thursday, the Kerry campaign charged that the emergence of the al-Zawahiri tape showed that the war in Iraq was distracting the Bush administration from fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The tape makes it "more clear than ever that Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan to invade Iraq," said Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's communications director. "His bad decisions and miscalculations in Iraq will cost the American people for decades to come and weakened our hand in the war on terror."

In the videotape, al-Zawahiri said the US was facing defeat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and said that US forces in Afghanistan were stuck in "trenches" and suffering rocket attacks while al-Qaeda and its allies roamed freely around the country.

"In both countries, if they continue they will bleed to death and if they withdraw they lose everything," he said.

He added that "the Americans are hiding in their trenches and refuse to come out to face the mujahidin, as the mujahidin shell and fire on them, and cut roads off around them. Their defense is only to bomb by air, wasting US money as they kick up dust."

While it is true that Taliban and al-Qaida fighters have begun to regroup in Afghanistan and are posing a major threat to the stability of the new Karzai government, al-Zawahiri's description of the status of allied forces in the country is off the mark.

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