Video gives martyrdom messages

WASHINGTON -- A chilling videotape of an alleged member of al-Qaida, cradling a rifle, eyes closed, is among videos and photos of five suspects delivering what authorities call "martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists."

Attorney General John Ashcroft released the videos and photos Thursday, urging the public to help "identify, locate and incapacitate terrorists who are suspected of planning additional attacks against innocent civilians."

One of those depicted was an associate of hijacking ringleader Mohammed Atta. Authorities believe the man intended to take part in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ashcroft said the videotapes were recovered recently in Afghanistan from the rubble of the home of Mohammad Atef, believed to have been Osama bin Laden's military chief. Officials say Atef was killed by a U.S. airstrike in November.

U.S. intelligence officials helped recover the tapes, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The sound was left out of the released versions to guard against the possibility that the messages contained signals for other terrorists, officials said.

In one video a man buries his head in his arms for moment. The next image is of the same man, eyes closed, hugging a rifle. He leans his face close to the barrel, his lips appearing to touch it. He then looks up and smiles.

The rifle strap is inscribed with Arabic writing that the man seems to be showing off. Officials did not transcribe the message.

Ashcroft said preliminary translations of statements from the men indicated they may have been trained and prepared for attacks.

"The videotapes depict young men delivering what appear to be martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists," Ashcroft said.

A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the men did not specify what would be attacked, used anti-American rhetoric and spoke of a hatred of "infidels."

Authorities don't know where the men are or whether they were killed in the bombing raids. There is no evidence they ever entered the United States; the Atta associate tried to enter the country three times last year but was unsuccessful.

"These men could be anywhere in the world," Ashcroft said, urging viewers to call the FBI or an American consulate if they think they've seen any of them.

He said the government tentatively identified four of the men as Abd Al-Rahim, Muhammad Sa'id Ali Hasan, Khalid Ibn Muhammad Al-Juhani and Ramzi Binalshibh. The fifth man's identify is not known.

Ashcroft said little was known about any except Binalshibh, a Yemeni whom officials allege was an associate of the Sept. 11 suicide hijacker Atta.

In the December indictment against Zacarias Moussaoui, Binalshibh was named along with Atta and the 18 other hijackers as an unindicted conspirator.

At a news conference, Ashcroft showed 30-second videos of Hasan, Al-Rahim and Al-Juhani. There were technical problems with the videos of the other two men; for them, the government released only still photos taken from the tapes. Photos shot from the tapes were also released for the other three.

Ashcroft said investigators were still translating the tapes. A decision about releasing the sound or a translation would be made after weighing security concerns, he said, adding that the department may decide not to release the sound.

"The portions we released today we felt were safe for release and we didn't believe they contained any surreptitious messages or coded signals that would be designed to alert parts of the terrorist network," Ashcroft said.

In the tapes, Hasan speaks, eyes cast down; he appears to be reading but only his face is shown. He wears a black and white scarf around his head.

Al-Rahim is shown seated, talking and gesturing rapidly, at one point holding fingers up as if listing off various points.

Al-Juhani is shown seated in front of a colorful curtain taking a red and white scarf off his head and burying his head in his arms.

Ashcroft said the release of the video footage and photos was part of an effort to help "freedom-loving people become the best line of self-defense."

As for the attack that he said was called for in the video, Ashcroft said: "Whether or not the attack would be imminent or not is something we can't determine."

FBI Director Robert Mueller said the videos came "from a trove of valuable information" discovered within Afghanistan. He said the tapes are still being analyzed to determine when they were made. He said there was no evidence any of the men had entered the United States, although at least one had tried.

"Every piece of information is potentially valuable," he said. "The principle is simple: An informed and enlightened public works."

Mueller said that as the U.S. military action goes forward, "it continues in ways that I think supports what we and the CIA, are engaged in, which is identifying terrorists and preventing future attacks."