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'Bin Laden' Tape Surfaces

Aired September 10, 2003 - 15:46   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Those who would like to learn loyalty and generosity and victory to support the religion, then let them learn from the sea, from the ocean of Said al-Ghamdi, Mohamed Atta, Ziad al-Jarah, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and their brothers. May the mercy of God be on them, those learned from the history of the Prophet Muhammad.

He was the most honest of people and the most brave of people. He said, you will not find me a miser, not a coward and not a liar. I would say to those who have not picked on these features, those who don't agree with killing, then let them step out of the way. I would say to them, those who don't -- who are afraid of climbing mountains, then they will live in pits and holes.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Heidi Collins at the CNN Center, about 3:47 Eastern time right now.

And you are listening to what could very well be the voice of Osama bin Laden, as we look at videotape just coming in to us from Al- Jazeera. We have been watching this here and there throughout the afternoon, in trying to learn more about where this comes from, what it means, especially on the eve of the second anniversary of September 11.

In order to do that further, I'm joined by Mike Boettcher, who, of course, has been following and covering Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups for quite some time.

And as you hear those words once again, Mike, what are the highlights here? What is different about this and what should people be thinking about, if in fact this is indeed Osama bin Laden?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the highlight of the tape were the comments by Ayman al-Zawahiri, saying, that you haven't seen nothing yet, basically, using the shorthand version of English to describe what he said.

He called for a jihad against the United States in Iraq. And Iraq has become the focal point, the magnet. He called for that. He called for Islamists from all over the world to come to Iraq and fight the United States. And, in my view, that is the high point of the audiotape. COLLINS: We're getting a little bit more sound now off of that tape. And it's a very long tape, we should let people know, about an hour, hour and a half or so, to go through, trying to bring you the highlights as we can today.

A little bit more sound that we have not yet heard from Ayman Al- Zawahiri. This is the top lieutenant to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization.

Let's listen to that.


AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, SENIOR AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) these slogans of human rights. We call you to Islam, the political oneness and justice (INAUDIBLE) and objectivity. If you reject us now, then the least you can do is just refrain from attacking our (INAUDIBLE) For decades (INAUDIBLE) insist in continuing our (INAUDIBLE) then expect (INAUDIBLE)


COLLINS: That audio a little bit more difficult to hear.

But we're hearing music in the background. This was something, Mike, that was produced.

BOETTCHER: And what we've discovered since Afghanistan fell to the United States, and in the al Qaeda tape library that CNN was able to obtain in Afghanistan, that they had their own video cameras.

They had productions with music and some sort of editing equipment. And they kept videotapes of everything, including CNN broadcasts. They had videotapes of the pope's visits around the world, which led to concern that they may be launching some -- back then -- some sort of plot to try to assassinate the pope. So they're very sophisticated in that way. And they know how to use video. And they know how to get their message out.

COLLINS: Well, let's talk about that for a minute. Let's bring in Octavia Nasr, our senior editor.

You have looked at so many of these tapes, all of the tapes that we have had access to. What do you see? What do you hear when you look at this?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ASSIGNMENT EDITOR: Well, first of all, like everybody else, we want to find out if indeed this is Osama bin Laden, if this is indeed Ayman al-Zawahiri.

And it sure sounds like bin Laden. It's the same rhetoric, same tone of voice, and same calls for jihad and killing Americans and so forth. The thing that I personally look for these days is a proof of life, or a date, a timetable, a time limit, time something.

For example, Zawahiri did start his audio saying, on the second anniversary of this September 11 attack -- that to me is very interesting. Of course, you could tape it today and say, on the third anniversary, on the fourth anniversary, and release them later. That is a possibility.

But I still find it interesting, because the bin Laden part didn't have any of that. It was just a call for jihad, just your usual bin Laden speeches or rhetoric, so different things. I look for clues. As Mike said, this was pre-produced. Al-Jazeera did come out and say this was produced by a company based in Pakistan called Al- Sahab.

This time around, they did something a little different from last year's release around September 11, which is, they added taunts. They added just quotes from what they called the bin Laden speech. They showed it on screen, so you could hear him and see -- read the -- what he's saying on screen, which is just a little different from last year.

COLLINS: Right. Right, and clearly some time to produce that.

I want to go ahead and bring in Nic Robertson now. He's joining us from Baghdad today to give us a little bit more insight from what he sees on this tape and has heard on this tape from his vantage point, again, live from Baghdad -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, very interesting to listening to what Mike was saying there, the highlights for him. That is Ayman Al-Zawahiri saying that September 11, effectively, we ain't seen nothing yet.

Five days ago, in the north of Iraq, in a Kurdish jail, I was granted very rare access to an Ansar al-Islam suicide bomber. He had been caught late last year. Ansar al-Islam, if you remember, was that group right on the border with Iran that was rooted by coalition forces out of Iraq earlier on this year.

He told me that he had had al Qaeda training, that that training had been given to him in the forms of computer discs, that he had a wide variety of training from explosives, rough training on use of chemical weapons. He also told me, very interestingly -- and this gels exactly with what Ayman al-Zawahiri said, that September the 11th, you haven't seen anything yet, very eerie to hear almost the same words echoed by somebody who claims to have had al Qaeda training, claims to have been a supporter, claims to understand their thinking, yet was incarcerated at least seven or eight months ago, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Nic, thanks so very much. And, also, you bring up the point, one of the points that President Bush made moments just ago, in talking about the collection of killers.

And we heard that on Sunday night, Mike Boettcher, when he addressed the American people about the situation in Iraq. And now Nic brings it up again. Is there a culmination of these different Islamic extremist groups? Is that going on?

BOETTCHER: It's not just al Qaeda, I'm told by coalition intelligence sources, who are infiltrating into Iraq.

It's a collection of people from different groups, for example, from Hezbollah, from Hamas, from other groups in the area, not just al Qaeda. Now, the trouble is for the coalition and the United States and Iraq, we may be seeing for the first time a coordination between members of these various groups, not a formal alliance, let's say, between Hezbollah and al Qaeda, but a coordination between members operating there.

What is being looked at heavily right now by intelligence analysts in the coalition is a possible working relationship between the man believed responsible for the Marine barracks bombing which occurred at -- well, it will be 20 years ago next month. It killed 241 Marines. That's Imad Mughniyah, who is a Hezbollah member, one of the founding members of Hezbollah, their external operations chief, who migrates between Iran and Lebanon, and his working relationship with an al Qaeda member, Abu Mussab al Zarqawi. So that is the big fear there.

COLLINS: It is a big fear.

Peter Bergen is joining us as well from D.C.

And, Peter, I would love to know what your thoughts are on this very idea, if that's at all possible. We only have about one minute left. But, Peter, we would like to know what you think about that. Are these groups coming together?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, certainly, jihadists -- all sorts of jihadists, are being attracted -- U.S. officials use the super magnet to describe the attraction Iraq is now having. The question of who they're making alliances with, I'm not sure.

But I think the extent to which al Qaeda will have a new base of operations, a new theater, a new battleground, it will be Iraq. We hear Ayman al-Zawahiri calling for the Iraqi mujahedeen to do more attacks against Western troops. So I think Iraq is obviously a central battleground for al Qaeda. And, as Mike says, there may be other alliances now happening with other groups beyond al Qaeda.

COLLINS: And, Nic Robertson, you are there in Baghdad. Who are the -- who are they addressing in these tapes?

ROBERTSON: Well, they're certainly addressing people, would-be jihadists, if you like, in Syria and in the other Gulf states. They made that very clear.

They're also trying to stiffen the resolve of any Iraqis fighting in what Iraqis will see as a resistance, people who might not typically have been allied at all with al Qaeda in the past, maybe Fedayeen elements here, maybe former Baath Party elements here in Iraq, who have been until now very secular, not at all allied with al Qaeda.

What some soldiers here tell us is, they think that some of the foreign fighters that are getting in are at least helping, aiding and abetting, and stiffening the resolve and abilities on the ground of some of the Iraqi fighters.

COLLINS: Octavia Nasr, I want to bring you back in, our senior editor here at CNN, to talk a little bit more about this tape coming out now on the eve of September 11. We saw similar tapes last year at this time. Not a surprise? Is it a surprise? Can we expect one every year?

NASR: Well, it's not a surprise, in the sense that, yes, we were all expecting something to show up somewhere.

If you looked back at last year, last year's anniversary, the same company, Al-Sahab, released tapes, not just to one network, but to different networks, tidbits here and there. So we were watching the different Arab networks and kind of collecting all the information. But it was done by the same company, produced by the same company. And, of course, they sell these tapes, usually. So, no, it wasn't a surprise.

What was, I guess, a surprise to me is the new footage that we haven't seen before, Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri together, walking around. And you can see in the video bin Laden just turning around every few minutes to see where the camera is, if it's still with him, walking very comfortably, obviously posing for the shoot, just like producing a video clip at this point.

So that, to me, was surprising. If this is not new, you just wonder why it wasn't released earlier. And if it is new, then it's a very, very serious video that we're looking at.

COLLINS: And, quickly, would the United States government authorities ever go to this production government to try to learn more about how they got this tape, how they are getting their information, and continually producing these?

NASR: I'm sure they have. What's interesting in all this is that Al-Sahab is very open about this. They're saying that: We're producing these tapes.

So I will be surprised if no one contacted them already to see how they got the video and who shot it and how they obtained it and how they released it and so forth.

COLLINS: All right, Octavia Nasr, thanks so much, our senior editor here at CNN.

Mike Boettcher, thank you so much for your comments as well. I'm sure you'll be here for a little bit longer.

Peter Bergen, Nic Robertson, everyone who's helped us out a little bit here today at CNN with the new videotape and audiotape possibly from Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al- Zawahiri.

We will continue to follow this story, obviously, throughout the day.


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