New purported bin Laden tape raises fear of new attacks
Audiotape: 'The real battle has not started yet'
(CNN) -- On the eve of the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a taped statement purportedly from two al Qaeda leaders is raising concerns of new terror attacks against U.S. interests.
The Arabic-language news network Al-Jazeera broadcast Wednesday what it said was a new tape of Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri encouraging new attacks against Americans.
The voice claiming to be bin Laden praises the suicide hijackers who crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field two years ago, killing more than 3,000 people. He mentions several of the hijackers by name.
"Those who don't agree with killing, then let them step out of the way," he says. "I would say to them, those who are afraid of climbing mountains will live in pits and holes."
Intelligence officials note that previous bin Laden/al Qaeda tapes have been followed by attacks on Western interests.
U.S. officials said the "chatter" level among suspected terrorists is up, but that there is no specific or credible intelligence about a particular target.
In the latest preproduced tape with separate video and audio portions, a voice purported to be that of al-Zawahiri, warned that the battle with the United States was far from over and exhorted fighters in Iraq to "bury them [the Americans] in the graveyard of Iraq."
The voice also said the United States has so far experienced "just the first skirmishes" and not yet begun to realize the true volume of its casualties.
"Those fighters in Iraq, we greet them and salute them and support them and ask God to bless their efforts and their bravery in fighting the crusaders, and we tell them God is with you and the nation is supporting you, depend and rely on God and attack and devour the Americans and bury them in the graveyard of Iraq," the purported voice of Ayman al-Zawahiri said.
Rumsfeld: Tape is tool to solicit money
The taped voice warned that "the real battle has not started yet. Prepare yourself for the punishment for your crimes."
That theme of the fighting just beginning also was used last month in an audiotape the CIA said was likely the voice of al-Zawahiri.
"We recommend to the mothers of the soldiers, if you like to see your sons, then hasten to ask your government to return them rather than coming back to you in coffins," the voice said on the latest tape.
Al-Zawahiri is bin Laden's closest adviser as well as his doctor.
The video portion of the tape on Al-Jazeera showed bin Laden and al-Zawahiri walking down a rocky hillside path. It's not known when or where the videotape was shot, but Al-Jazeera speculated it could have been in April or May. It's also unclear when the audio was recorded.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the tape is just an attempt by the terrorist organization to prove to its followers that it's doing well.
"What they're doing is they're trying to pretend that they're functioning well, leave the impression that people should give them money, their financiers, leave the impression that they're a viable organization and that they should get recruits, and just generally give encouragement to their people," Rumsfeld said on PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
U.S. intelligence officials are analyzing the video and audio portions of the new tape and officials say that within a day or so, they will be able to determine whether the voices are indeed the two al Qaeda leaders.
Bin Laden was last seen in a videotape released in late 2001. It is believed that he is hiding along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Alleged September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed said he met with bin Laden in December 2002, according to Pakistani intelligence officials who captured Mohammed a few months ago.
The last statement from bin Laden came April 7 of this year, and al-Zawahiri released a statement August 3.
Some U.S. officials doubt that the latest tape was shot earlier this year, saying that both men appear to be in good health and bin Laden shows no signs of the injuries that intelligence sources said he suffered in the siege of Tora Bora in December 2001.
In several past videotapes of bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader did not move his left arm.
Rumsfeld pointed out that the tape still hasn't been authenticated.
"If he's [bin Laden's] alive, which he may very well be or may not be, as far as I know -- if he is alive and he's not able to function, doing what they're doing with tapes is probably the smartest thing to do," Rumsfeld said of the statement's release.
'Something big and nasty is coming'
But there is concern among intelligence officials that an al Qaeda broadcast statement may be followed by new attacks.
In an October 2002 audiotape, which coincided with the anniversary of the coalition attack on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri said, "God willing, we will continue targeting the keys of the American economy."
Four days after that tape was released, terrorists bombed two Bali nightclubs, killing more than 180 people, mostly young tourists from Australia. Citizens from at least 12 other countries -- including Indonesia, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and the United States -- were also killed in the blasts.
Eric Margoli, a columnist for the Toronto Sun and author of the book, "War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet" said there have been other warning signs.
"Islamic publications have been carrying a message from bin Laden, saying that he is going to mount a spectacular martyrdom operation -- as he calls it -- and will die within the next 12 months," said Margoli. "So the chance that something big and nasty is coming is heightened."
At a speech Wednesday afternoon at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, President Bush said he had not yet heard the tape.
Bush said that on Thursday's anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Americans should keep in mind the "determined and ruthless enemy that still plots against our people."
"We will keep them on the run. We will bring them to justice," he vowed during a speech on Homeland Security at the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. He also noted that with U.S. efforts, "Al Qaeda has lost nearly two-thirds of its known leaders."
"We're determined to prevent terrorist networks from gaining weapons of mass destruction. We're committed to spreading democracy and tolerance and freedom in the Middle East, to replace the hatred and bitterness with progress and hope and peace," Bush said.
The purported voice of al-Zawahiri on the tape also referred to the Mideast, addressing "our Muslim brothers in Palestine."
"The wound of Palestine is bleeding in the heart of every Muslim, and with the help of God we will not let America enjoy peace and security until the Palestinian issue is resolved," the voice said.
"We tell them we are on the path of jihad, and we ask that the Muslim brothers not to be deceived by America," the voice said. "Palestine will not be liberated but with jihad, so never, never give up your weapons."
CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor and National Correspondent Mike Boettcher contributed to this report