- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

From combined dispatches
DOHA, Qatar Osama bin Laden urged his followers yesterday to attack U.S. economic might in a new video broadcast on Arabic television, and the Pentagon said it had no idea whether the terrorist mastermind was dead or alive.
Bin Laden also used the appearance on Qatar-based Al Jazeera television to lionize the 19 hijackers who inflicted September 11 terror attacks on the United States, in a message probably recorded in December.
The television station did not say where the tape was shot, but as it hit the airwaves, an Afghan Defense Ministry official said bin Laden was alive and that his al Qaeda network was still intact and highly dangerous.
A visibly worn bin Laden, wearing green combat fatigues and with an assault rifle propped by his side, argued on the recording that the economy was the foundation of U.S. military might.
"I say it is very important to hit the U.S. economy with every available means," bin Laden said in the tape, which Al Jazeera aired in full yesterday after showing excerpts on Wednesday. "If their economy is finished, they will become too busy to enslave oppressed people.
"We say that the end of the United States is imminent, whether bin Laden or his followers are alive or dead, for the awakening of the Muslim nation has occurred," he said.
The Saudi-born dissident also disclosed that all 19 of the September 11 hijackers were Arabs and that 15 hailed from Saudi Arabia.
"Fifteen youths come from the country of the two holy mosques," he said, adding that two other hijackers came from the United Arab Emirates and worked with "Mohamed Atta of Egypt" and "another, Ziad al-Jarrah," from Lebanon.
The attackers hit "the mightiest power" and caused losses of "more than $1 trillion on the New York market and elsewhere," he said, using his own figures.
"These blessed and successful strikes were in response to what is happening on our land in Palestine and Iraq," he said, noting that the attacks were not carried out by Arab armies and states "who have got used to submissiveness and injustice."
Bin Laden said he was speaking "three months after the blessed strikes against world atheism and its leader, America, and around two months after the fierce crusade against Islam."
That would mean the recording was made around Dec. 7, as the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan began on Oct. 7. Bin Laden's whereabouts have been unknown for weeks, and unconfirmed reports have been circulating about his death.
There was no immediate U.S. response to the full video.
On Wednesday, the White House derided the tape as "terrorist propaganda."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Washington was still hunting bin Laden but conceded that it had no real idea where he was amid speculation he could have escaped through Pakistan or may have died in a ferocious U.S. bombing onslaught.
Mr. Rumsfeld mentioned that there are "six, seven, eight, 10, 12 conflicting reports every day" about bin Laden's whereabouts.
"I've stopped chasing them," he said. "We do know of certain knowledge that he is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead. And we know of certain knowledge that we don't know which of those happens to be the case."
But an Afghan Defense Ministry official said bin Laden was hunkered down in mountains on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border under the protection of a hard-line Islamic leader.
Mohammed Habeel, spokesman for Defense Minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim, said "reliable intelligence sources" reported that bin Laden had crossed from the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan into Pakistan about a week ago.
Since then, he has been staying in a tribal area controlled by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) leader Fazelur Rahman but may have moved back and forth across the border, Mr. Habeel said.
However, JUI said the accusations were merely an attempt to discredit the group. A top Pakistani official dismissed the reports as "trash."
U.S. bombers and reconnaissance planes made repeated flights over the White Mountains in eastern Afghanistan yesterday. Residents of a village in the eastern province of Paktika reported that about 40 civilians were killed and 20 injured during U.S. bombardments, but there was no independent confirmation.
In Washington, Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan condemned the tape as "the usual rhetoric we have seen before from a deviant and cowardly criminal. Bin Laden is deluding himself if he believes that his criminal acts are justified by any religion or principle of humanity.
"Bin Laden and those associated with him are criminals who must be brought to justice and severely punished," he said.

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