From the AP, Jan. 19:
Al-Jazeera on Thursday aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden, who says al-Qaeda is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce “with fair conditions.”
The tape’s release came days after a US airstrike in Pakistan that was targeting bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and reportedly killed four leading al-Qaeda figures, including possibly al-Zawahri’s son-in-law. There was no mention of the attack on the segments that were broadcast.
It was the first purported tape from the al-Qaeda leader in more than a year — the longest period without a message since the September 11, 2001 suicide hijackings in the United States.
The tape appeared to have been made since late November. The speaker refers to an alleged comment by President Bush about bombing the Qatar headquarters of Al-Jazeera, which was first reported in the British press on November 22, 2005.
He also refers indirectly to the July 7, 2005 bombings in London that killed 56 people and to poll numbers that showed a fall in Bush’s popularity, as occurred in late 2005.
The voice on the tape said he was directing his message to the American people after polls showed that “an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq but (Bush) opposed that desire.”
He said insurgents were winning the conflict in Iraq and warned that security measures in the West and the United States could not prevent attacks there.
“The proof of that is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of European nations,” he said “The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with God’s permission.”
The speaker did not give conditions for a truce in the excerpts aired by Al-Jazeera.
“We do not mind offering you a long-term truce with fair conditions that we adhere to,” he said. “We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war.
“There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America,” he said.
There was no immediate confirmation of the tape’s authenticity, although the voice resembled that of bin Laden’s in previous messages.
The last audiotape purported to be from bin Laden was broadcast in December 2004 by Al-Jazeera. In that recording, he endorsed Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of Iraqi elections.
Since then, bin Laden’s deputy in al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, has issued a number of video and audiotapes, including one claiming responsibility for the London attacks, which he said came after Europe rejected the terms of a truce al-Qaeda had previously offered them.
Al-Jazeera’s editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sheik would not comment on when or where the tape was received. He said the full tape was 10 minutes long. The station aired four excerpts with what it “considered newsworthy,” he said, but would not say what was on the remainder.
The White House rejected bin Laden’s truce suggestion. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in a television interview. “I think you have to destroy them.” (AP, Jan. 20)
Osama’s communique of October 2004 also appeared to offer a truce if the US assumed a less bellicose stance.
Meanwhile, Pakistani intelligence agents are said to be hunting for the graves of four al-Qaeda militants believed killed in a controversial US airstrike near the Afghan border.
ABC News reported that a master al-Qaeda bomb-maker and chemical weapons expert was killed in the attack on the village of Damadola. He was identified as Midhat Mursi, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, who ran an al-Qaeda training camp and has a $5 million reward on his head.
Pakistani officials also said two other al-Qaeda figures were killed: Khalid Habib, the organization’s operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Rehman al-Magrabi, a senior operations commander for the group. (AP, Jan. 19)