Officials try to ID man in bin Laden tape

Monday, December 17, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Senior U.S. officials said Sunday they still are not sure about the identity of the man seen visiting Osama bin Laden in a videotape released last week.

"We're trying to get a firm identification of him so there's no question about who we're dealing with," Secretary of State Colin Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We do not know who the other people in the tape were," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Of course we have an interest in finding out."

The tape, released Thursday by the Bush administration, showed him discussing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a visitor in Afghanistan, who congratulates him on their success.

U.S. officials said Friday they believe the man is Sheik Ali bin Said al-Ghandi, a Saudi Arabian Islamic cleric known for anti-Western views.

The New York Times reported Sunday that a senior Saudi official had identified the visitor as Khaled al-Harbi, a legless Saudi veteran of battles in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya.

Asked how a legless man could get into Afghanistan to meet bin Laden, Powell said, "Obviously, there is a a connection between the two of sufficient formality to it that they were able to transport him there, get him access and move him into the country."

"I know for a fact our intelligence agencies are making sure we know who this individual was," Powell added, "and tracing him down and determining what those connections might be and where that trail might take us."

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