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Top deputy tape

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World - AP Europe

Tape Threatens More Attacks on U.S.
Tue Oct 8, 6:20 PM ET
By AUDREY WOODS, Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) - In a taped interview, a speaker purported to be Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, threatens new attacks on the United States, its allies and its economy.

The authenticity of the audiotape, obtained by Associated Press Television News on Tuesday, could not be independently confirmed. It was not known when the tape was made though it includes references to the United States' recent standoff with Iraq and a July 1 U.S. bombing in Afghanistan (news - web sites).

The speaker said to be al-Zawahri accuses the United States of trying, through its campaign against Iraq, to subjugate the Arab world on behalf of Israel.

Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian who is regarded as a primary strategist of the al-Qaida terrorists and was with bin Laden in Afghanistan, disappeared soon after Sept. 11 but is widely thought to have survived U.S. bombing there. U.S. officials say they don't know whether he or bin Laden are alive.

Al-Zawahri was said to be alive in a satellite telephone conversation reportedly intercepted over the weekend by U.S. and Afghan intelligence. The conversation was between fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and his former deputy prime minister, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, an Afghan intelligence official told The Associated Press. A U.S. official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said American intelligence agencies have not been able to corroborate the information and do not believe it is true.

The audio interview attributed to al-Zawahri was obtained by APTN in the form of a video compact disc. On the disc, the interview is played against a video backdrop with English subtitles of the conversation, along with scenes from the Sept. 11 attacks and other news footage.

A title in the video identifies the speaker as al-Zawahri and says the video is a production of the As-Sahaab Foundation for Islamic Media. The foundation is credited with earlier al-Qaida statements that appeared on Web sites and with the so-called farewell video of Ahmed Ibrahim A. Alhaznawi, a Sept. 11 hijacker.

In Washington, U.S. intelligence was analyzing the al-Zawahri tape to determine whether its his voice and when it was made, a U.S. intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

APTN on Tuesday played the tape to Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, who has interviewed al-Zawahri.

"To my knowledge it does sound like the voice of Ayman al-Zawahri," Atwan said. "I don't have assurance that it is 100 percent his voice, but definitely it's the closest to his voice." He noted that the speaker has an Egyptian accent and uses language used by al-Zawahri in previous speeches.

Al-Zawahri, 50, is believed to be bin Laden's doctor and spiritual adviser, providing the ideology that drove al-Qaida. He was the head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad until he forged an alliance with bin Laden in 1998.

Al-Zawahri is on the U.S. most wanted list and the government is offering a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to his capture. Egypt sentenced him to death in absentia in 1999 for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan and for attempting to kill officials in Egypt. He has been indicted in the United States for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

In the recording, an unidentified person interviewed the speaker said to be al-Zawahri, who issued a warning to what he called "the deputies of America," to get out of the Muslim world, specifically Germany and France.

"The mujahid youth has already sent messages to Germany and France," the speaker said. "However, if these doses are not enough, we are prepared with the help of Allah, to inject further doses."

A May 8 attack on a bus in Pakistan killed 11 French engineers and an April 11 blast at a synagogue in Tunisia, a former French colony, killed 16 people, including 11 Germans. Both attacks have been linked to al-Qaida.

"As for America itself, it should expect to be treated the same way it has acted," the man on the tape says, pointing to suffering of Muslims in Afghanistan and in the Palestinian territories.

"It will have to pay the price. ... The settlement of this overburdened account will then indeed be heavy. We will also aim to continue, by permission of Allah, the destruction of the American economy."

The speaker said the year-old U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan "has not achieved its goals. ... Neither America nor its allies have been able to harm the leadership of al-Qaida and Taliban, including Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheik Osama bin Laden, may Allah protect them all. They are both in good health."

Asked what he saw as the motives for the United States campaign against Iraq, the man said, "Its first aim is to destroy any effective military force in the proximity of Israel."

Its second aim, he said, is to consolidate the supremacy of Israel over Arab countries.

"America and its deputies should know that their crimes will not go unpunished," he said. "We advise them to make a hasty retreat from Palestine, the Arabian Gulf, Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim states, before they lose everything."

Atwan said he believed the recording was part of a "media campaign" by al-Qaida's leaders aimed at showing "that they are still intact, they are still powerful."

He suggested al-Qaida's change from video to audio interviews could mean its leaders are being more careful and making it impossible for specialists to interpret any background or scenery.

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