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New bin Laden tape targets ‘Pharaoh’ Bush

Dubai, Feb. 16 (Reuters): A Saudi-owned newspaper today published excerpts of what it said was a new audio recording by Osama bin Laden in which he vowed to wage more attacks against American targets throughout the world.

In the recording, which was obtained by the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, the Saudi-born militant urged Muslims to set aside their fear of the US and fight it, saying Washington was planning to invade more Arab states after Iraq.

Al Hayat said it obtained the recording off an Islamist website affiliated with Laden’s al Qaida network. The paper did not identify the site and access to Islamist websites that have in the past published al Qaida statements are frequently blocked by Internet hackers.

Al Hayat did not provide a text of the speech, but said the al Qaida leader had made the 50-minute recording on the occasion of last week’s Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. “In the recording, Osama bin Laden pledges to maintain the fight against Americans in the world calling on Islamic nations to defeat the Americans,” Al Hayat said.

If authenticated, the recording would be the most recent proof that Laden had escaped the 2001 US-led military campaign to flush him and his al Qaida operatives from Afghanistan.

It follows another audio tape broadcast last week by Qatar’s al Jazeera television network in which the Saudi-born militant called on Muslims to use suicide attacks and bombings to prevent a US war on Iraq. The recordings coincide with a state of high alert in the US and its ally Britain who said they had concrete information that al Qaida was planning a slew of attacks.

Al Qaida attacks have in the past followed messages by Laden and al Jazeera’s Tuesday broadcast of its tape heightened fears of an imminent strike.

In the new recording, Al Hayat said the al Qaida leader, Washington’s key suspect in the worst attacks on US soil since World War Two, praised the September 11, 2001, strikes and said they proved that Muslims could defeat the US. He also called US President George W. Bush an “idiot” and “the Pharaoh of this era”, accusing him of waging a “new crusade to divide the region for the sake of Israel”.

“The September 11 attackers destroyed the idols of infidel America and rubbed the nose of the United States in the dirt,” the newspaper quoted Laden as saying. “They proved that it (the US) could be defeated and humiliated,” he added. “Oh Muslims, do not fear America because we have defeated them repeatedly and they are the most cowardly of people when you meet them face to face.”

Al Hayat said the recording was of very good quality and Laden could be clearly heard rustling the papers of his speech. It also quoted unnamed Islamists saying Laden had made the recording to clarify the al Qaida’s position on Iraq after the al Jazeera broadcast which the US said proved the Saudi militant and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were in partnership.

The newspaper did not give any more details, but said Laden also talked about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, prayed for the militants detained at a US base in Guantanamo, Cuba and hailed the leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad militant group who is serving a life sentence in the US.

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