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1998 tape shows bin Laden declaring jihad against the West

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Surrounded by his key lieutenants and masked, gun-toting bodyguards, Osama bin Laden declared "holy war" against the West in a 1998 press conference that was videotaped by al-Qaida and aired Tuesday by CNN.

However, a Pakistani journalist who attended the press conference, held at an al-Qaida camp near Khost in southeastern Afghanistan, recalled that the taciturn bin Laden showed passion only when he spoke on two issues: U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and Israel's control of Jerusalem.

The tape aired by CNN on Tuesday was the second in a series that the network said it obtained from an al-Qaida archive in Afghanistan. The latest tape showed bin Laden warning of a mission that would "result in killing Americans and getting rid of them."

Bin Laden did not give more details. About two months later, however, nearly simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 231 people, including 17 Americans. The United States blames al-Qaida for the Aug, 7, 1998 embassy bombings.

It appeared that the purpose of the press conference, which was restricted to select Pakistani journalists and one Chinese writer, was to announce a jihad, or holy war, against the United States and its allies.

'Getting rid of' Americans

"And by God's grace, the men reacted to this call and they are going on this path, and they are doing a good job," bin Laden said through an interpreter. "By God's will, their actions are going to have a successful result in killing Americans and getting rid of them."

Three months before the press conference, bin Laden had announced formation of the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," meaning the Christian West. The Front included several Islamic militant groups and declared its intention to attack Americans anywhere in the world.

Both of bin Laden's declarations attracted only modest international attention, even though they served as a harbinger to the devastating attacks of Sept. 11.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said government officials will be reviewing CNN's tapes for any useful intelligence information.

CNN's first report on the tapes, aired Monday, showed grisly images of dogs being killed with poisonous gas and al-Qaida conducting mock ambushes and kidnappings.

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House's Office of Homeland Security, said there was no credible information the group had obtained weapons of mass destruction.

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said CNN had shared the videos "with the appropriate authorities, because of our concern for the safety of people around the world."


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