- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2010

CAIRO | Osama bin Laden threatened in a new message released Thursday to kill any Americans al Qaeda captures if the U.S. executes the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks or other al Qaeda suspects.

In the 74-second audiotape aired on Al Jazeera television, the al Qaeda leader explicitly mentioned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003. He is the most senior al Qaeda operative in U.S. custody and is currently detained at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In 2008, the U.S. charged Mohammed with murder and war crimes in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. Pentagon officials have said they will seek the death penalty for him. Four of his fellow plotters are also in custody.

“The White House has expressed its desire to execute them. The day America makes that decision will be the day it has issued a death sentence for any one of you that is taken captive,” bin Laden said, addressing Americans.

After his March 2003 capture in Pakistan, Mohammed described himself as the architect of numerous terrorism plots and even claimed that “with my blessed right hand,” he had decapitated Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl was found beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.

Mohammed, appearing in court June 2008 for the first time since his capture five years earlier, said he would welcome becoming a “martyr” after a judge warned him that he faces the death penalty for his confessed role as mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time,” he declared.

The U.S. is still considering whether to put Mohammed and the four fellow plotters on military tribunal. The Obama administration is also looking into recommendations for civilian trials, and is expected to announce a decision soon.

Al Qaeda is not known to be holding any Americans captive now. But the Haqqani group - the Pakistan-based Taliban faction closest to al Qaeda - is holding American soldier Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009. It released a video of him in December.

Bin Laden also said President Obama is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, George W. Bush, by escalating the war in Afghanistan, being “unjust” to al Qaeda prisoners and supporting Israel in its occupation of Palestinian land.

“The politicians of the White House were and still are wronging us, especially by supporting Israel and occupying our land in Palestine. They think that America, behind oceans, is safe from the wrath of the oppressed, until the reaction was loud and strong in your homeland,” he said of the Sept. 11 attacks. “Equal treatment is only fair. War is a back-and-forth.”

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere in the rugged, lawless border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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