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CIA: Tape likely contains al Qaeda deputy's voice

Recording threatens U.S. over Guantanamo detainees

From Pam Benson
CNN Washington Bureau

Ayman al-Zawahiri spent three years in prison in connection with the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Ayman al-Zawahiri spent three years in prison in connection with the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A CIA technical analysis of an audiotape purported to have been recorded by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri found that the voice on the tape is "most likely" his, a CIA official said.

The CIA could not determine when the recording was made.

On the tape, a man who identifies himself as al-Zawahiri says the United States and its allies will pay a "very high price" if detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are tried in military tribunals and face the death penalty.

"We are saying to America one thing: What you saw with your eyes so far are only initial skirmishes," the voice says. "The real battle didn't start yet."

The tape was broadcast Sunday on the Dubai-based Arabic-language network Al Arabiya.

Al-Zawahiri is Osama bin Laden's closest adviser, as well as his doctor. He has made frequent appearances at bin Laden's side, usually in a trio completed by the late military committee commander Mohammed Atef, who was killed in November 2001 during an airstrike in Afghanistan.

The tape makes no mention of bin Laden. It tells those "working or cooperating" with the United States that America is too weak to protect itself or its allies.

"The crusader America will pay a very high price for any harm that will affect any of the prisoners that they are holding," the voice says. "Those who are allies or helping America will pay the same price. Those who are handing over our brothers will pay the same price.

"We haven't identified who actually submitted the tape," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." "But [coming] from a terrorist, threatening American interests is not really surprising.

"We take the threat, and have taken [every] threat since September 11, seriously," he said.

Ridge also said al-Zawahiri and bin Laden were among the "ever-diminishing number of al Qaeda leaders who have been able to avoid apprehension to date.

"I'm confident that, as the president said, the leaders, particularly one or two, will be brought to justice," he said.

The last purported al- Zawahiri tape was released in May, just after the near-simultaneous suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed 23 people, including nine Americans.

Investigators believe al-Zawahiri played an important role in the terrorist attacks of September 11. He is on the U.S. government's list of most-wanted terrorists because of his indictment in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Intelligence suggests al-Zawahiri is not far from bin Laden, somewhere along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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