New Tape Suggests Bin Laden May Be Alive
Monday, August 18, 2003
NEW YORK — New information suggests Usama bin Laden (search) may be alive and well and still coordinating terror attacks.
Reuters reported Monday that the Al Arabiya (search) television news channel aired an audiotape allegedly from an Al Qaeda (search) spokesman saying bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar (search) were urging Muslims to fight a holy war against U.S. troops in Iraq.
The tape praised Muslims for their resistance and acts of sabotage. It also urged further uprisings as part of a full-out "jihad," or holy war, against coalition troops, saying "The group of believers carrying jihad in the name of God planted fear and terror in the hearts of Americans."
The tape could not be immediately authenticated.
Other evidence links the Al Qaeda terror network to a series of attacks on Westerners in Saudi Arabia.
The Washington Times reported Monday that Saudi authorities had said a letter allegedly from bin Laden was found on the body of Yosif Salih Fahd Ala'yeeri, one of the 19 men linked to the May bombings in Riyadh (search) that left 34 people dead. Pentagon sources confirmed to Fox News that they believe the letter is in fact from bin Laden.
Ala'yeeri was killed in a May 31 shootout with Saudi security forces.
Two days before the bombings, bin Laden's son Saad reportedly made a satellite phone call from Iran to a member of the Riyadh cell, a Western diplomat told the Times.
Pentagon sources also told Fox News that they do believe that Saad bin Laden placed the phone call in question. Defense sources told Fox News that there are some assumptions in the Washington Times story they don't necessarily endorse but that there are nuggets of truth to the story.
Saad bin Laden is currently in custody in Iran, Saudi officials have said. Neither Iranian nor American officials have confirmed the identities of Al Qaeda suspects being held by Tehran.
Adel al-Jabeir, Saudi foreign policy
adviser, said the government is conducting numerous investigations to stop Al Qaeda and Saudi-born leader bin Laden from carrying out more attacks.
"We have questioned thousands of people. We have broken cells. We have extradited people, helped in the arrest of a major Al Qaeda terrorist who was captured," he said.
The recipient of Saad's phone call, a Saudi, was arrested after the May bombings and has been questioned about his relationship with the younger bin Laden.
The Times also reported that threats against jetliners involving surface-to-air missiles were the reason British Airways stopped flights to Saudi Arabia last week, and that both bin Ladens had been implicated in the alleged plot.
The information may have come from the CIA as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia try to improve their information-sharing practices.
Bush Administration officials say Saudi Arabia has been "very helpful" in recent weeks in the hunt for al Qaeda cells inside the kingdom.
Details of the possible missile attack were found in documents in a car used by the Riyadh cell, the Times reported.
In May 2002, a shoulder-launched SA7 missile was fired at an American fighter plane taking off from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Explosives had been found outside the base earlier with an attached Al Qaeda note demanding that all American forces leave the country.
In November 2002, a surface-to-air missile was fired at an Israeli jetliner taking off from Mombasa, Kenya, as an Al Qaeda bomb blew up a hotel nearby.
At least three surface-to-air missiles have been fired at American planes landing at Baghdad International Airport in recent months. As in the Kenyan incident, all missed.
American, British and Russian intelligence authorities last week arrested three men in the New York area for trying to sell a highly sophisticated surface-to-air missile to Al Qaeda.
The Times speculated that some of the best intelligence information regarding Al Qaeda's activities has been coming from Ali Abdul Rahman al-Faqaasi al-Ghamdi.
Believed to be the mastermind behind the Riyadh bombings, al-Ghamdi, who apparently had met Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan before the Taliban fell, has since surrendered to Saudi authorities.
Fox News' Bret Baier, Kelly Wright, Liza Porteus and Darragh Worland contributed to this report.