Osama bin Laden's first video appearance since 2004 has dispelled doubts about the fate of the world's most-wanted man, showing he remains a threat six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, analysts said yesterday.
"The al-Qaeda chief sought to put paid to various speculation about his fate," said Azzam Tamimi, head of the London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, referring to constant reports that the fugitive bin Laden may be dead.
He said bin Laden's comeback in a video circulated by US-based monitoring services late on Friday was meant to signal that he is alive and kicking.
He said the video's significance lies more in bin Laden's appearance than in its content.
Bin Laden's message, addressed to the US people, "brought nothing new," Tamimi said.
The al-Qaeda chief essentially takes pride in "being responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and implicitly threatens the American people that new attacks [are forthcoming] because they gave George W. Bush a second term," he said.
In terms of appearance, Tamimi said that bin Laden's black-dyed beard was a "sign of war."
The rigorous Salafi Islamic school to which bin Laden belongs "condones this dye only in preparation for war," he said.
In the video, the first since October 2004, bin Laden mocked the US as "weak" and vowed to escalate fighting in Iraq.
Intelligence agencies confirmed the tape's authenticity.
"I think people are pretty confident it is his voice," said a US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The tape was probably produced as recently as last month because of a reference to the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, the official said.
Earlier on Friday, CIA Director Michael Hayden warned that al-Qaeda was planning new, large-scale attacks on US targets.
"Our analysts assess with high confidence that al-Qaeda's central leadership is planning high impact plots against the American homeland," he said.