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Bin Laden Tape Warns of Attacks

Aired January 19, 2006 - 11:30   ET


We continue our coverage now of this new audio tape reported to be from Osama bin Laden. It was delivered to the Al Jazeera network. They played parts of it on their air and then released the entire transcript on their Web site. We have been playing one sound bite for you here on CNN, a part a part that is directed toward the American people that warns the American people that plans for attacks here in the U.S., they say, according to this audio tape, are already under way.

On that idea of the domestic threat here in the U.S., let's bring in our justice correspondent Kelli Arena. Kelli, you have been able to talk to the FBI since the news came out?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I have, Daryn. I've been talking all morning with counterterrorism and intelligence officials and of course FBI officials. And what they tell me is that they have not seen an increase in so-called intelligence chatter in the last several weeks. They have nothing to indicate, intelligence- wise, that an attack is under way, that it is operational. They say they don't anticipate any change in the operational momentum.

Obviously, they have a variety of intelligence investigations going on across the United States. And as you know, the FBI's main priority right now is trying to uncover any possible cells or individuals that are in the United States and move against them before they get to the point of attack. Obviously, they know what they know and it's always a possibility that there are people in the U.S. that they don't know about.

But they were pretty confident this morning in saying that, in terms of the intelligence gathering operation, which is far bigger than it was now before and far more organized than it was now than it was in September 11, 2001, they haven't seen anything to back up what Osama bin Laden is saying at this point -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Kelli, thank you for that.

Let's put the emergence of this tape in some context of recent events, including a bombing that took place along the Pakistan/Afghan border late last week.

And David Ensor, can you talk about that and the effect that might have had.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this may have been one of the most devastating setbacks that al Qaeda has suffered since 2001. We just don't know at this point. On Friday of last week, I know that the Central Intelligence Agency arranged for air strikes to hit a particular compound in Damadola, which is a Pakistani village in the kind of highlands, in the beginning of the mountains, just along the border with Afghanistan.

And at first they were hoping to hit the Ayman al Zawahiri, the number two man in al Qaeda. Most recently Pakistani in particular, but also U.S. officials are saying they don't think they succeeded in that effort, but they have -- U.S. officials are not entirely ruling out.

However, a quite important al Qaeda leader, Abu Khabab al Masri, whose real name is Midhat Mursi, who's an expert on chemical weapons and explosives -- his name has come up in recent days as someone that they also had evidence was in the vicinity at the time the attack occurred and might have died in those attacks. Again, no absolute surety on that.

Two other men, Khalid Habib and Ubayda al Masri, who were local commanders, operations commanders of al Qaeda, have also been mentioned as possibly having been killed in that attack. So the CIA, this follows a couple of other attacks over the last few weeks. The CIA is clearly going on the offensive in northwest Pakistan, using whatever intelligence it does have about gatherings of al Qaeda leadership and trying to kill them, to put it bluntly. And now, it may be that this -- the release of this tape has something to do with that attack on Friday.

KAGAN: And get to that in a moment. But, you know, when the news of the attacks first broke, it was covered as a complete bumbled operation on the part of the CIA that women and children were killed and only civilians and they missed all of their intended targets. Now as time goes on, in addition to possible civilian victims, it might actually have been more successful than originally reported.

ENSOR: Well, I mean, in fairness to the U.S. government, counterterrorism officials said all along and still are saying, we don't know if we got Zawahiri, we don't think we did but we still may have. We are very, very confident we've killed four to eight al Qaeda senior operatives. They remained firm on that from the start, they're still saying so. Now who the names are for sure, that, they say, they will know but they do not yet.

Now as -- how that attack might play into the release of the tape, if they might possibly be linked. Let's bring in our Nic Robertson. Nic, you say that there might be indicators that this tape has actually been around for a while.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, when you look at the timing and you look at what's been happening in the news over the last week since that attack in Pakistan last Friday, Ayman al Zawahari, bin Laden's deputy, looked like he might have been dead for a while. The news has been going against al Qaeda.

And when you look at the timing of the release of the latest bin Laden audio tape, if it proves to be him, is a little suspicious, if you will. Look, on that tape, the statements, the timelines, difficult to judge. Does appear to have been recorded since the London bombings last summer. But the references are all very generic.

It sort of has the hallmarks of something, an audio tape that was recorded, put on the shelf and play in the case of an emergency, if you will. And perhaps al Qaeda deemed that this was the right moment. We know from the audio clips from -- that Al Jazeera has played that one of the messages here is, we are winning, al Qaeda is winning. And that almost seems to come out as a direct response to the news over the last almost week now.

So it seems that perhaps al Qaeda has pushed this out at this time because it feels necessary. We really don't know that for a fact, but David was just talking about the CIA and the efforts to get bin Laden, really heating up, being more aggressive.

And guess what? If this is a response, a direct response pushing this tape out now, for intelligence officials, that's exactly what they want to do. They want to draw bin Laden. They want to draw Zawahari out from under cover. And if this tape has been pushed out because it's a reaction to the bombing last week, this is the sort of thing they want. This will help them. The more leads they have, the more times bin Laden and Zawahari stick their necks out to make statements, it gives intelligence officials perhaps that little bit greater opportunity to catch them -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Nic Robertson, David Ensor, we'll be back with you in just a moment.

We want to make our viewers aware of some events coming up in the next hour, including the White House briefing, set to take place in just over a half hour. You'll see that live here on CNN. And then Vice President Dick Cheney, a previously scheduled speech, comments on the war on terror. That is scheduled under an hour from now at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. You'll see that live here on CNN.

We'll have much more coverage on this breaking and developing story in just a moment. Right now, a quick break.


KAGAN: We've been in rolling coverage for over an hour now on this news from Al Jazeera, actually from Osama bin Laden, a man purporting to be Osama bin Laden, releasing an audio tape to the Al Jazeera network. They have played big parts of it and released the entire transcript on their Web site. We played the part that we believe is the most important for the American people to hear, and that is a part that is directed toward the American people, where it warns and says that new attacks and planning for new attacks are under way here in the United States.

We will have more on that in just a moment.

First, though, other news related to Iraq. It is a mother's urgent plea to save her daughter's life. The daughter, kidnapped American journalist, Jill Carroll, taken hostage 12 days ago. Her kidnappers have threatened to kill her unless the U.S. releases female Iraqi prisoners by tomorrow night.

Her mother gave an exclusive interview on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." And in it, Mary Beth Carroll issues a statement in which she appeals directly to her daughter's captors.


MARY BETH CARROLL, HOSTAGE'S MOTHER: Jill's fairness in reporting and her genuine concern for the Iraqi people made her the invited and welcomed guest of her many Iraqi friends. A video just released gives us hope that Jill is alive, but has also shaken us about her fate. So I, her father and her sister are appealing directly to her captors to release this young woman who has worked so hard to show the suffering of Iraqis to the world.

Jill has always shown the highest respect for the Iraqi people and their customs. We hope that her captors will show Jill the same respect in return.

Taking vengeance on my innocent daughter who loves Iraq and its people will not create justice.

To her captors, I say that Jill's welfare depends upon you. And so we call upon you to ensure that Jill is returned safely home to her family, who needs her and loves her. Jill's father, sister and I ask and encourage the persons holding our daughter to work with Jill to find a way to contact us with the honorable intent of discussing her release.

Muslim groups here in the U.S. and in Iraq have also called for Jill Carroll's release. But the clock is ticking toward tomorrow's deadlines that have been set by her kidnappers.

Let's get the latest now from Baghdad and CNN's Michael Holmes.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Arabic-language network Al Jazeera aired more portions of the Jill Carroll video on Thursday. It showed her sitting or kneeling in a spot in a room with masked gunmen standing nearby. One of them apparently reading a statement. The demand, of course, is that U.S. forces release all female Iraqi prisoners within 72 hours. U.S. officials confirm they hold roughly 14,000 prisoners on insurgent-related matters, but only eight of them are women.

Now the Iraqi justice ministry tells us six of those women have been recommended for release, irregardless of the kidnappers' demands. A U.S. military spokesman said that procedures regarding female Iraqi prisoners are being followed, unrelated to the kidnappers' demands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is indeed a process apace to review additional detainees that could be released. Some of them are the female detainees. Right now there is no specific indication that we're going to release an individual female, particularly not as a result of the demand by a terrorist, an extremist or a criminal.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, more violence in the Iraqi capital, at least 15 killed, 46 wounded, when nearly simultaneous attacks came from a car bomb and a suicide bomber in a busy commercial area here. An official with the Baghdad Emergency Police says that the car bomb was targeting an Iraqi police patrol. It exploded, followed almost immediately by an explosion by the suicide bomber in a crowded coffee shop.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.


KAGAN: And we're about to get back to our developing story. News of a new audio tape from Osama bin Laden. We'll have more on that in just a minute, after the break.



KAGAN: Once again, the story of a man purporting to be Osama bin Laden releasing a new audio tape -- I should say, not a videotape -- it's an audio tape and it went to the Al Jazeera television network. We have played part of it that -- where you can hear the person on the tape saying that there are new threats that are already being planned to be carried out here in the United States.

There are other elements of the tape and for more on that, let's bring back in Nic Robertson -- Nic?

ROBERTSON: Well, some of the other elements include a time reference or an apparent time reference. The tape is quite generic, but the apparent time reference seems to indicate that it was recorded after the London bombings last July. He talks about bombings in European cities. There's a reference in there as well that al Qaeda is winning, that President Bush is misleading the American people, he says. The United States should get out of Iraq, get out of Afghanistan.

It goes on to offer a truce. It doesn't talk about what the terms of that truce may be. It does say that we believe that your leaders are not interested in that truce. Certainly, al Qaeda has carried through threats in the past that it has made and when it has offered a truce and the terms, its terms of whatever truce, have not been met, it has carried through on those threats -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And what about some of the markers on this tape?

ROBERTSON: Probably, probably, the best indicator we have. And again, one of the sort of identifying features or the interesting features of this message or at least the portions that al Jazeera has heard of it so far is its sort of generic nature.

It refers to bombings in European capitals. Now, we know about Madrid in 2004. We know about the London bombings last summer. Now was he referring perhaps, leaving it open that there might have been another attack in Europe since then, since when he recorded the message? We just don't know. But it does seem to date the tape at least after -- at least after July last year. That's probably the best indicator on the tape -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Nic, thank you.

Of course, the thing that's getting the most attention from us are these threats against the United States. What would that do to the terror alert and what do law enforcement officials do with that information?

Let's go to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena with more on that -- Kelli.

ARENA: Well, Daryn, there -- all the officials I spoke to today at the FBI, counterterrorism officials, intelligence officials, say it's pretty much business as usual, that they did not need to hear an audio tape from Osama bin Laden to know there was a threat against the United States. They say they've seen no increase in the chatter level. There's no specific intelligence to indicate that there's any plan that's operational or ready to, you know, to be put in place.

Also, I have had several discussions this morning, Daryn, about the timing of this tape. And as you know, there was that air strike in Pakistan where it is believed that maybe at least one senior al Qaeda leader may have been killed as a result of that air strike.

And some of the terrorism experts that I spoke to today suggest that this was a tape that the organization was holding in reserve. As you heard from Nic, the markers that we've been able to determine put it around -- at least at the summer, right. So we know he could have made the tape in the summer, maybe a little earlier, who knows. But if he's referring to the two attacks in Europe, then that puts it in mid-July.

This is the kind of thing they say can be held for propaganda purposes, that it -- that the United States got very close, a little bit too close for comfort for al Qaeda with that recent air strike. That something needed to be done and needed to be done quickly to boost moral, to get a message out to the troops, that it was probably inconceivable that Zawahari himself, if he still alive, would be able to pull that off so quickly.

And so they're theorizing that perhaps this was something they had in reserve, ready to go when they most needed and boom, we get it today. Just an interesting discussion on the timing of this whole thing -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Kelli, thank you. We've got about a minute left in our coverage this hour. I want to bring David Ensor back in. What intelligence officials be looking at with this tape today?

ENSOR: Well, the first thing they do is analyze the tape and make sure it is in fact Osama bin Laden's voice. That's done at the Central Intelligence Agency. Of course, there are translators there who know his voice very well and they have other tapes they could compare it with. You'll probably hear before the day's out. And usually, the overwhelming bulk of them have turned out to be genuine. One or two were not. So first, is it his voice?

Secondly, same thing we've been discussing, time markers. What else can we get out it? And of course, they'll have the whole transcript that Octavia's going through for us now, looking for any other clues on the tape that Al Jazeera may not have broadcast. That's the most interesting part.

Then it's what is the message? And they'll be parsing that. If he talks about attacks in the heartland, does he mean that literally? What would Osama bin Laden mean by heartland?

KAGAN: Has he been that literal in the past, David?

ENSOR: You know, the problem is, we don't -- I don't speak Arabic and I don't know where we get heartland from in Arabic, so it doesn't...

KAGAN: We can ask Octavia in a moment.

ENSOR: We should talk to Octavia about that, yes.

KAGAN: We will get to her -- in fact, we'll do that in the next hour.

David, you're going to stay with us. I hope Kelli will as well, and Nic Robertson. Octavia is getting wired up here to join us as well.

Our coverage is going to continue. Usually we break away for international news, but this is important to us here in the U.S., especially the part where he -- Osama bin Laden, the man purporting to be Osama bin Laden, directs his attention and his message to the American people and talks about threats and plans for attacks that he says are already under way.

A couple other events coming up in the next hour that you will see live here on CNN. In about 20 minutes, the White House press briefing is scheduled to begin. We'll bring that to you. And at the bottom the hour, Vice President Dick Cheney already had a pre-planned speech on the war on terror. You'll see those comments live here on CNN, particularly relevant to the news of the day.

I'm Daryn Kagan. As I said, our coverage will continue. Much more on the new audio tape reported to be from Osama bin Laden with direct threats to America and Americans. Our coverage continues in just a moment.


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