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CIA: New bin Laden tape likely al Qaeda leader

Recording refers to recent attack in Jeddah


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Osama bin Laden appears in a video shown earlier this year on Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera.
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(CNN) -- CIA officials said they have a "high degree of confidence" that the voice on the new, 70-minute-long, muffled audiotape is that of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The tape showed up on Arabic Web sites Thursday, referring to the December 6 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The voice on the tape says instability in Saudi Arabia is due to the kingdom's regime.

"While the struggle in Saudi Arabia appears to be internal, it is part of the struggle between believers and nonbelievers" of Islam, the speaker said.

Near the end of the tape, the speaker asks for God's blessings for "our brothers who stormed the American Consulate in Jeddah."

"We pray to Allah to accept the mujahedeen who stormed the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah as martyrs," the speaker says.

The tape also offers deep criticism of the Saudi royal family.

"Millions are suffering poverty, while riyals [Saudi currency] pour into the hands of the Saudi royal family," the speaker says.

Al Qaeda expert Paul Eedle, who said the voice on the tape appears to be that of bin Laden, said the main message of the recording is a call for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family.

"It's an enormously detailed piece of invective against the Saudi royal family and against other Arab rulers accusing them of being puppets of what Osama bin Laden calls a crusaders-Zionist alliance led by America, which is seeking to steal the wealth and occupy the lands of Muslims," Eedle said.

Eedle said bin Laden may have wanted to lend his voice to Thursday's planned protests in Riyadh and Jeddah against the Saudi royal family, which were organized by the Saudi opposition movement based in London.

Terrorism expert Peter Bergen said the 10-day period between the Jeddah attack and the release of the tape is the fastest turnaround that he can recall between a news event and a communication from bin Laden.

"It indicates to me a certain degree of security," Bergen said on CNN's "Live Today."

"After all, the chain of custody of these tapes is the one way to find bin Laden. He obviously feels secure enough that he can release a number of these tapes."

The last message from the al Qaeda leader came in a videotape appearing October 29 on the Arab-language television network Al-Jazeera. His top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, spoke in an audiotape that aired November 29 on Al-Jazeera.

Bergen said by his count bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have released 29 messages since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"It's extraordinary that the chain of custody of these tapes has not been traced back," Bergen said. "After all, they're releasing these tapes very frequently, on average once every six weeks, yet it seems that American intelligence agencies or other intelligence agencies are not capable of tracing back the source of these tapes."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States has made significant progress in the war on terrorism, "but the war continues."

"The terrorists will be defeated, and the civilized world will prevail in this global struggle of ideologies," McClellan said.

A Saudi militant group with ties to al Qaeda took responsibility for the Jeddah attack, posting its claim on several Islamist Web sites often used by militants.

Five consular employees -- four local staff members and a contract guard -- were killed. Four other local staff members were wounded.

Saudi forces killed three of the gunmen and captured two others, both of whom were wounded, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. One of the gunmen later died.

In April, the State Department ordered "nonemergency employees and all dependents of the U.S. Embassy Riyadh and Consulates General Jeddah and Dhahran ... to leave the country" because of security concerns and urged Americans to defer travel to the kingdom.

Al Qaeda-led suicide attacks struck Riyadh housing compounds in May and July 2003, killing 40 people, most of them Muslims.

CNN's David Ensor and Henry Schuster contributed to this report.


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