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Al Qaeda Relays New Message from Osama bin Laden

Aired October 15, 2001 - 08:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: To the region now, CNN is the only U.S.-based television network allowed inside Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan. Our own Nic Robertson has just crossed the border into Pashawar, Pakistan, with some brand new information for us now.

Nic, good morning.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, the latest is, just before we left Jalalabad about 100 miles west of here inside Afghanistan, I met with some representatives of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda movement. Now, I asked them how Mr. Bin Laden was, what his situation was. They said that they had seen him in the last two days and he was well. I asked them what his view was on the current situation. They said that he was confident that he would win this war, they said.

They also said that he believe - Osama believed that he has successfully defined the terms of this conflict. They said that he believes he's defined this as a - as a battle for saving Islam, and that the allied forces fighting against Islam.

They also said that the United States and Great Britain, according to Osama bin laden, would now suffer huge economic and political downfall because of their involvement in this.

They said that the only way that the conflict could go on, the only way that the conflict could end and that the United States could avoid having its economy or political situation ruined, they said was if the United States removed its troops from Saudi Arabia. This is what Al Qaeda movement and Osama bin Laden has been saying all along.

They also said that it was necessary for the United States to disengage in the situation in Israel. However, Mr. Bin Laden's representatives did say that Osama bin Laden had a special message at this time. And that message was that if the homes of Afghan people are destroyed, then there would be consequences for that action.

Now, of course, the Taliban took us into Afghanistan in the last couple of days to show us just that. The Taliban wanted to show international reporters what they said were homes and houses of civilians damaged as part of the allied bombing campaign. And to that end, they took us to a village yesterday in the mountains and said we were able to see a village where a large number of the houses had been destroyed and a large number of people still there who told us that American bombers had bombed their village.

ZAHN: All right. Nic, you said that representatives told you that Osama bin Laden is confident that he will win this war. Did they describe to you what he thinks would constitute a win?

ROBERTSON: Paul, I'm sorry, it was very difficult to hear your question. You asked me what - you asked me if they had described the terms of how they would win this war, I believe.

They said that they were confident this time because they said that clearly, they had already - they were already beginning to win because they said that the economy of the United States had been affected. In fact, they said the economy of the world would be affected this time. And also, that it would have a politically destabilizing affect, not only on the United States, but on Britain. They also singled out the British leader, Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that his involvement in this would mean problems for the United Kingdom, for Great Britain. Paula?

ZAHN: You also said that he issued a threat, that if civilians' homes were destroyed, that there would be consequences for those actions. Was there a more specific threat made, or was that it?

ROBERTSON: No, the message was, and they described this as a special message. They were very clear about that, that this was special message. That if Afghan homes were destroyed, then there would be serious consequences, but they didn't outline what those consequences exactly might be. But there was an implied threat that if these homes, as they say, of Afghan civilians were destroyed, then there would be consequences. Paula?

ZAHN: I know the administration has been telling us for days that they believe Osama bin Laden is alive, but I guess there's no proof of that. How confident are you of this information that his representatives gave you?

ROBERTSON: He seemed very confident, in all honesty. I asked him how he could be sure that he knew Osama bin Laden was well. When I asked him, he said because he had actually met with him himself two days before, that he knew where he was, or knew where he had been, and this representative was introduced to me by somebody else as being a representative of Al Qaeda. This is somebody else that I had previously known, and it seemed to me, from my interaction with this gentleman and another - and another of his colleagues who was also from Al Qaeda, so it seemed to me that they were genuinely representatives of Al Qaeda. And they were certainly very convincing in their arguments about putting forward Al Qaeda's views, and very convincing in saying that they did know Osama bin Laden, and that they had recently met with him.

It seemed like - it definitely appeared to be a genuine representation coming from Al Qaeda, with what at this stage, seems to be a genuine message.

ZAHN: Well, the timing of this, I don't know if you could even gauge this reaction. But their reaction to the news that President Bush says, "Absolutely no negotiations, we won't allow Osama bin Laden to be turned over to a third country."

ROBERTSON: Well, I asked them because the Taliban - a high leader from the Taliban, just about 12 hours before our meeting, I had asked that leader of the Taliban, "Now, what happens if you get this evidence? Will you turn Osama bin Laden over?"

He said, "Osama bin Laden is in Afghanistan, and that therefore, he has to abide by the rules and regulations of Afghanistan. And if we tell him he would have to be turned over, then he would have to be turned over to a third country," likely a Muslim country, they said.

Now, what I asked the Al Qaeda representatives, would Mr. Bin Laden go along with this if the Taliban came to them and said, "Look, we have this evidence. It proves beyond doubt that Mr. Bin Laden was involved," would you - would he surrender himself?

Now, they were less clear in their answer there. I did not get a clear 'yes' or 'no' that they would surrender Osama bin Laden to the Taliban.

ZAHN: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much for that fascinating update, a lot for us to analyze here this morning.

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