| Osama bin Laden: New targets
Washington, Nov 13 (Reuters): An audio tape broadcast by an Arabic-language television channel today sounds like the voice of Osama bin Laden threatening attacks against US allies, but US authorities have not made a final determination of its authenticity, officials said.
If it genuinely is bin Laden’s voice, that would show that the world’s most-hunted man was alive as of a few weeks ago because the tape makes references to recent events such as last month’s Bali bombings and the Chechen hostage siege in Moscow.
“It does sound like Osama bin Laden, but we haven’t reached that conclusion,” a US official said. On the tape broadcast by the al Jazeera satellite television channel based in Qatar, a man identified as the Saudi-born Islamic extremist warned US allies that they would be targets of new attacks if they continued to back the “White House gang of butchers.”
The United States blames bin Laden and his al Qaida network for the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks on America that killed more than 3,000 people, and has vowed to destroy them. The last time US authorities had evidence bin Laden was alive was in December 2001. They have pursued him along the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where al Qaida members fled following the US bombing of Afghanistan.
“We’re not making judgmnts at this point as to whose voice is on the tape,” said Sean McCormack, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
But if confirmed as bin Laden, “it won’t affect the war on terrorism,” he said.
“This is not about any one person. We’re going to continue to go after every member of the al Qaida terrorist organisation.”
President George W. Bush once said bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive” and the United States has offered a $25 million reward for information leading to him.
The voice on the audio tape hailed anti-Western attacks in Bali, Kuwait, Yemen and Jordan and last month’s hostage-taking in Moscow. If authenticated,“it means he was alive as of a couple of weeks ago,” a US official said.
The mere fact of bin Laden’s survival likely would intensify US concerns that al Qaida is rebuilding and seeking to launch more attacks against US and allied interests, even as the United States prepares for possible war against Iraq.
Bush yesterday spoke about those dangers in a speech about homeland security during a visit to police headquarters in Washington.
“This is a war. This isn’t a single, isolated incident. We are now in the first war of the 21st century. And it’s a different kind of war than we’re used to... These are suiciders. These are cold-blooded killers. That’s all they are,” he said.