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Boettcher: Al Qaeda eyed after Bali bombing

CNN correspondent Mike Boettcher
CNN correspondent Mike Boettcher

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The bombings in Bali have raised fears of al Qaeda involvement and whether a new wave of terrorism is beginning. CNN's Mike Boettcher in London talked with Anchor Bill Hemmer about that possibility, and about new messages purported to be, but unconfirmed, from Osama bin Laden.

HEMMER: No terror group has yet to claim responsibility for the bombing Saturday night in Bali. All eyes, though, on al Qaeda firmly now. Now there is a growing concern that this is just the beginning of a new campaign. Are the fingerprints on that deadly attack? Mike Boettcher tracking that down from London.

Mike, before we get to that story, I understand there is a breaking story also out of the Middle East that may have a connection with evidence about Osama bin Laden possibly still alive.

What do you have on that?

BOETTCHER: Well, Bill, we've been tracking a couple of items today. One is from a Web site connected with al Qaeda. We tracked it with our experts, and in that, Osama bin Laden supposedly signed this Internet message in which al Qaeda congratulated those who took part in the attacks on the Marines in Kuwait and also against the French tanker near Yemen.

Now, there is another report from al-Jazeera this morning. They are broadcasting a letter reportedly signed by Osama bin Laden, in which he says that the U.S.-led coalition has not been successful in stamping out al Qaeda, in which this message also congratulates those attackers.

HEMMER: Mike, when we look at these things, oftentimes we want to get date references to offer some sort of verification. Anything that may lend credence to it?

BOETTCHER: Well, certainly they're talking in reference to recent attacks against the tanker, and against U.S. Marines. So it would have been written rather recently. And it is the belief of U.S. counterterrorism officials and those here in Europe that these are legitimate messages from al Qaeda.

HEMMER: If that's the case, Mike, is there a shift in strategy seen here, or is this more of the same?

BOETTCHER: Well, I think there is a shift in strategy. And I think you're going to see a much more direct attack on softer targets that would hurt the worldwide economy. Now, it was made clear in a couple of messages from Aman Al-Zawari, bin Laden's number two, and bin Laden himself a couple of weeks ago that -- and these are messages broadcast on audiotape -- that they were going to go, as they called it, for the arteries that carry the lifeblood of the crusaders. and they mean by that, economic targets. You look at what happened in Bali. That is going to have a devastating effect on the tourism industry around the world. Already, tanker insurance rates are going to jump perhaps as high as 250 percent. That means higher gas prices, and that hurts the world economy.

So this all is going to tie in together, and I think you'll see various al Qaeda cells, connected cells or affiliated cells, around the world going for softer targets; as the U.S. and other coalition partners harden the embassies and harden the military institutions; there's no other choice.

But if you hit those civilian targets and those economic targets, it still has a tremendous effect.

HEMMER: Mike, let's talk a bit more about Bali. You have essentially tracked al Qaeda throughout the entire world. Do you see their fingerprints on this? Within the al Qaeda terror manual, with two separate bombings taking place, possibly to flush people out onto an open street, do you see characteristics there used in Bali that would represent al Qaeda tactics?

BOETTCHER: Well, certainly the tactic of using a car bomb packed with explosives. There's been a lot of training in that regard. If you go back, Bill, to the al Qaeda archives, which CNN's Nic Robertson covered from Afghanistan, there were videotapes from al Qaeda-affiliated groups training in Indonesia on a particular island. So certainly al Qaeda in Afghanistan had an interest in what was going on in Indonesia. There have been many threats. The embassy there, U.S. embassy, has had to go to high alert status and close several times, and there were reports of a plan that was broken up by authorities in Southeast Asia, an attack in Singapore.

Now what this group Jemaah Islamiah wants to do is create a state based in Indonesia and parts of the Philippines, and certainly this fits into their playbook, carrying out such an act, although they have never done anything with this high casualty total before.

HEMMER: Thank you, Mike. Mike Boettcher, tracking that from London for us today. Much appreciated.



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