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Statement attributed to bin Laden hails attacks

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

CAIRO, Egypt -- A signed statement allegedly from Osama bin Laden claimed Monday that recent attacks in Yemen and Kuwait were designed to coincide with the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan and to send a "clear and strong message" to the world that his al-Qaida organization is still active.

The statement, which was faxed to the Al-Jazeera network and posted on an Islamic Web site, appeared to have been written on a computer, using an Arabic font that looks like handwriting. The signature at the bottom is similar to bin Laden's distinctive style, with a loop at the end.

Still, there was no way to authenticate the statement. Bin Laden's whereabouts are unknown and President Bush said Monday: "We don't know whether bin Laden is alive or dead."

"We do know that al-Qaida's still dangerous, and while we've made good progress, there is a lot more work to do," Bush said.

Monday's statement accused the United States of occupying Afghanistan and planning a war in Iraq in order to conquer the Muslim world. It praised two Kuwaitis who opened fire on U.S. Marines as brothers-in-arms with the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"The heroic Kuwait operation proved the extent of the danger that confronts American troops wherever they go in the Islamic world," the statement read.

"America is getting ready for a new round of its crusade against the Islamic world, this time ... against the Muslim Iraqi people, aiming at completing its plan to divide the Islamic nation and tear it apart, looting its wealth, and preparing for establishing the state of greater Israel after expelling the Palestinians."

Nearly identical

A copy faxed to Al-Jazeera on Monday was nearly identical to one posted on an Islamic Web site. It was addressed to "the Islamic nation, on the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the American new crusade war."

It was signed: "Your brother, Osama bin Mohammed bin Laden."

Vince Cannistraro, a former counterterrorism chief, believes the signature is real, but it could have been duplicated from earlier statements. In that case, it wouldn't be a definite confirmation bin Laden is alive. "It could be 'cut-and-paste,'" he said.

On Oct. 6, a French tanker was damaged in an explosion in Yemen. The explosion is being investigated as a terror attack and Yemeni officials said they were looking at the possibility the blast was caused by a small boat laden with explosives. The USS Cole was attacked in a similar fashion in Yemen in October 2000 in an act blamed on bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

The U.S.-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan began Oct. 7, 2001, three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"By exploding the oil tanker in Yemen, the holy warriors hit the umbilical cord and lifeline of the crusader community, reminding the enemy of the heavy cost of blood and the gravity of losses they will pay as a price for their continued aggression on our community and looting of our wealth."

Bin Laden has often referred to Westerners as "crusaders" and to Americans and Jews as "the enemy." Such statements have appeared periodically on Islamic fundamentalist Web sites that cloak the identity of those who run them and espouse anti-Western ideology.

Monday's statement also praised "holy warriors" in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Philippines, Indonesia and Kashmir. It made no reference to a deadly bomb attack Saturday in Bali, Indonesia.

In recent days, al-Qaida leaders have gone back on the Mideast air waves in what experts say is a renewed public relations campaign aimed at keeping itself in the public eye.

U.S. counterterrorism officials believe the recordings are a sign of al-Qaida's leadership asserting it is still viable to its rank-and-file followers.

Warning issued

The recent al-Qaida statements prompted the FBI last week to issue a warning to state and local law enforcement agencies that a new al-Qaida attack on the United States has been approved by the terror network's leadership. But the agency said it did not have any specific information detailing where and when an attack may occur.

The State Department issued a worldwide caution to Americans abroad to alert them to "the continuing threat of terrorist actions that may target civilians."


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