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Possible bin Laden Audiotape Released

Aired February 11, 2003 - 15:12   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Is it authentic? Is it indeed Osama bin Laden? What's the meaning behind the message? Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen with us now as we try to decipher, I guess, actually, try and figure out if indeed this audiotape is authentic.
Peter, I guess I want to ask you, specifically, as we're listening to this, just the short bit that we did listen to, we're not hearing anything specific with regard to a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, or a U.S. invasion of Iraq. I mean, this seems to be pretty general thus far, sort of a message to Muslims, a spiritual message if you will. What do you think thus far?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: He has mentioned the impending invasion of Iraq. He hasn't mentioned anything to do with Saddam Hussein. So far, it is just a solidarity statement about the war in Iraq, not necessarily linked to the regime. In terms of the authenticity of the tape, I mean, I've heard bin Laden's voice many times. I'm pretty confident that's him. Al-Jazeera has had a 100 percent success rate, as it were, in terms of identifying bin Laden's tapes and putting out tapes that have turned out to be authentic. Clearly Secretary Powell believed it to be authentic when he talked about it this morning. I believe it is authentic, would be very surprising if it weren't.

PHILLIPS: You do think it's authentic. Tell me why. You say you know his voice? Is it simply just by listening to it, you can identify immediately with the way he's pronouncing words, and the voice modulation?

BERGEN: It just sounds like him. I mean, I've listened enough times to his voice to think -- to know this sounds very like him.

PHILLIPS: So if indeed this is him -- I mean, headline here, Osama bin Laden is alive.

BERGEN: We knew that already, actually. In October, a four- minute tape was released which referenced the Bali blast which happened in October. It was a very brief tape of four minutes, but it made the kinds of references that indicated that it would be made sometime in perhaps -- sometime in October. So we knew that he was alive. We also know -- we have another audiotape from his No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who is also very important in the organization. Essentially, we know that the two leaders of al Qaeda remain alive today.

PHILLIPS: All right. Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst, I'm going to ask you to stand by, please. Our Mike Boettcher now, we're going to go to London -- Mike, you've been listening to this tape. You have heard Osama bin Laden's voice before. Do you think this is authentic also?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, judging by the routing of the tape -- that it was released by Al-Jazeera indicates that it is authentic.


PHILLIPS: Hold on just a second. I'm going to put Mike on hold for a quick second. I'm told we have got another excerpt from this audiotape message from Osama bin Laden. Let's listen in.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): In an earlier speech, I had mentioned their bunkers and the way they build them. If you look back at the old battles that we fought bravely, and here I'm going to mention a little bit about this old battle just to show you how cowardly they are, and how the bunkers that they built turned against them. We were 300 mujahid (ph), and we had built some bunkers that were very close to each other. So each bunker was for three people to diminish the loss of life, and then our positions were attacked. We were attacked on October 7, 2001. We were attacked very extensively, and then things got a little bit better until the middle of Ramadan.

PHILLIPS: All right. If you are just tuning in, what you are listening to was an audiotape, an alleged audiotape of Osama bin Laden. So far, our terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen out of D.C. believes, indeed, that this is an authentic tape. We were just talking with our Mike Boettcher in London. Mike, let's go back to you. As you continue -- I didn't mean to cut you off. I apologize. We were bringing another excerpt sort of at the last minute here of this taped message allegedly by Osama bin Laden. You were talking about your reaction to this tape, if, indeed, you think it's authentic. Your reaction thus far?

BOETTCHER: Well, my reaction so far is the fact that this seems to be an advice column from Osama bin Laden to the Iraqis, telling them how he managed to fight the Americans, saying that he listened to the radio broadcasts during the fighting at Tora Bora. He could listen to American radios and radios of the other coalition forces there, and they were able to survive. He talked about how hard it was, and it's a lesson, a morale lesson, as well, it seems Osama bin Laden is trying to give to Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army.

PHILLIPS: So, when he's talking about an old battle, you're saying he's talking about Afghanistan?

BOETTCHER: Well, he originally was talking about Tora Bora. He described the heavy bombing in Tora Bora, which occurred after the U.S. offensive had driven the Taliban out of power. This would have happened late in 2001, and this is the battle in which Osama bin Laden, we've been told by coalition intelligence sources, managed to escape because he moved bunkers a day before.

He talked about heavy U.S. bombardment, but that bombardment missed Osama bin Laden by about 100 meters, we are told, and he was injured in that bombing. He relates the heavy bombing, but what I've heard so far he doesn't talk about being injured. But that is at the time when he made the escape from Kandahar to Tora Bora. There were large forces there of al Qaeda. It was the biggest battle in the campaign against al Qaeda, and there were several U.S. lives lost there, and he basically says on the tape that those U.S. forces couldn't beat us. How can these powers defeat the Arab nation, and that is a direct comment to the Iraqi people and Saddam Hussein.

PHILLIPS: So, Mike, you are saying that this message from Osama bin Laden is a bit of an advice column, as you say, to Iraq. Sort of a morale speech to Saddam Hussein. But is it actually -- do you think thus far, as you listen to this, are you actually seeing a link here between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Does this prove that there is a relationship, a working relationship, do you think, or do you think it's just sort of a gesture on his part, a speech he's giving to Saddam Hussein?

BOETTCHER: Well, what I've heard so far is no smoking gun, no connection. He's not going to talk about, of course, any links if they do exist, between al Qaeda and Iraq. He is exhorting them to carry on, telling him about their past experiences in battling the United States and its coalition forces, and he's telling them that they can win if they resist against the United States.

The details that will, if they ever will, connect al Qaeda with Iraq, are still being worked on by intelligence agencies all over the world. There is a lot more out there, I've been told in my recent travels through the region, through the Middle East region, that there's a lot more out there that's going to come out, but even with that additional information, and it has to do with money and how this was all funded, but even with that additional information, it will still be difficult to say this is a smoking gun.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Mike Boettcher, live out of London there. We are going to ask you to stand by as we continue to vet this tape. If you are just tuning in, what we are monitoring right now is a message, an audiotaped message from Osama bin Laden. It's airing on Al-Jazeera network, an Arab news network. It's an excerpt, rather, that you just heard. You've actually heard two excerpts, but we are monitoring this tape. OK. I'm told we have another excerpt. Let's go ahead and take a listen to that, and I'll continue to explain what's happening here.

BIN LADEN (through translator): ... in the name of God, this is a message to our brothers, Muslims in Iraq. Peace be upon you -- (recites Quranic verse). We are following very carefully the preparation of the crusaders to invade the Iraqi land and taking the wealth of the Muslims and installing a regime that has Tel Aviv and Washington on its head to run you, in preparation for the establishment of greater Israel, God forbid...

PHILLIPS: All right. Once again, you are listening to an excerpt from an audiotaped message from Osama bin Laden. Indeed, we are vetting this audiotape that is airing live on Al-Jazeera network right now, the Arab network that is airing this audiotape. So far, our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen has told us he does believe that this is authentic. He's heard Osama bin Laden's voice many times. I am now told we have another excerpt. We're going to listen in.

BIN LADEN (through translator): We also want to confirm, we want to ask the good Muslims to help in any way they can, to join the forces and get them together to overthrow the leaderships, the leadership that works as a slave for America. Jordan and Morocco and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, all these countries should be careful that this war, this crusade, is attacking...

PHILLIPS: You've been listening to excerpts of a videotape -- or, sorry, an audiotape -- I apologize -- of Osama bin Laden, an alleged audiotape in existence right now, airing live on Al-Jazeera network, the Arab network that is carrying this audiotape.

So far our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen tells us that he does believe that this tape is authentic. He's been listening to it. He knows Osama bin Laden's voice. We've also been talking to our Mike Boettcher out of London. He, too, following what is airing on Al- Jazeera right now. We're not airing the tape in its entirety. What we are doing is running through our veting process here at CNN, indeed trying to confirm that it is authentic. So far our experts here at CNN believe that it is authentic.

Osama bin Laden basically coming out, as our Mike Boettcher puts it, with an advice column to Iraq, describing the old battle, talking about Afghanistan and the bombs being dropped in Tora Bora, and advising Saddam Hussein on how they built bunkers and survived the bombing.

Let's bring in our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen in D.C. Peter, you'll be a lot better at describing what we're hearing here. As you listen more and more to these excerpts, you still are believing that this is indeed Osama bin Laden on this audiotape?

BERGEN: Yes, he's hitting a lot of the themes he has hit in the past. On theme that he just -- in the last excerpt we heard was calling for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, essentially, which is something that he's been calling for for more than a decade. He also talked about overthrowing the governments in Morocco, Nigeria, and Jordan, all of whom he regards as being too pro-American. That is part of his -- that has been part of his general world view that most Middle Eastern regimes need to be replaced by more Islamic regimes.

PHILLIPS: All right, Peter, and as you -- also I want to point out, too, that as we've been talking, we still have not heard an actual identifiable link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, right?

BERGEN: I'd be very surprised if he does. I mean, you know, Osama bin Laden has long been on the record as supporting the Iraqi people against what he regards as the oppression of the West. He rarely brings in Saddam into that. So that in past statements that he's made, he tends to lump Saddam together with other Middle Eastern rulers that he doesn't like. So I would be surprised if he has nice things to say about Saddam. We haven't heard the whole tape, but I would be surprised if he does.

PHILLIPS: All right. Our Peter Bergen, terrorism analyst, live in D.C. there. Thank you so much. We're going to ask you to stay with us as we continue to listen to this tape.


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